DNA Exonerates Man Nearly 100 Years Later

In January 1910, Cora Crippen disappeared under mysterious circumstances following a dinner party at the house she shared with her husband, Dr. Hawley Crippen, who had moved to England from the United States. The doctor told friends that his wife had returned to the United States to visit relatives, and that soon after she had taken ill and died. He then invited scandal by asking his secretary, Ethel Le Neve, to move in with him. Friends grew suspicious and asked the police to investigate. Dr. Crippen told police that Cora had left him for another man, and that he had lied to his friends to save face. Scotland Yard inspectors returned a few days later to ask more questions, but Dr. Crippen and Ethel had fled. Investigators performed a search of the house and found a human body buried under the brick floor of the basement. The remains were identified as being Cora, and the coroner identified the cause of death as poison. Dr. Crippen was subsequently arrested, tried, convicted and hanged for the murder of his wife. The Crippen case was the O.J. Simpson case of 1910, according to forensic toxicologist John Trestrail, one of the key investigators who revisited the case in 2008. He was troubled by the circumstantial evidence and solicited the help of DNA expert David Foran. Working in his lab at Michigan State University, Foran compared the DNA from the 100-year-old tissue to modern DNA from relatives of Cora, expecting to confirm that the body found was hers. Instead, the team found that the DNA didn’t match and that even more startling, the body wasn’t even female. Further investigation discovered that Cora did, in fact, move back to the United States, and even though she was made aware of Dr. Crippen’s impending execution, did nothing to save him. In 2008, with all the new findings, Dr. Crippen’s closest living relative, James Patrick Crippen, requested that the British government pardon Dr. Hawley Crippen and return his bones to America.