California criminalist shares insight to celebrity deaths at Douglas County event center

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Los Angeles County coroner criminalist Dan Anderson opened his presentation to Douglas County residents with the goriest of crime scenes.

It wasn’t the Michael Jackson investigation that was shocking. And it wasn’t Brittany Murphy’s mysterious passing.

It was the 2002 death of a woman at the hands of emerging rapper Antron “Big Lurch” Singleton, whose victim died during a drug-induced rage.

Singleton’s victim was 21-year-old Tynisha Ysais, who died of multiple blunt force injuries. Ysais likely died quickly from brain damage sustained in the first minutes of the attack, which included the removal of her lungs, Anderson said.

The description of her death painted a gruesome picture, made worse by crime scene photos that illustrated the reality of death investigations. Anderson’s job, as the L.A. County Coroner’s chief criminalist/toxicologist, is to contribute to death investigations through the testing of bodily fluids for adverse chemicals or poisons.

In Singleton’s case, the rapper tested positive for PCP, a drug originally developed as an anesthetic that can cause “intensely negative psychological effects” in humans, according to the National Institute of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Anderson’s description of this case and others showcased the contribution made by crime scene analysts in the coroner’s office, which vary little across the country.

“We don’t solve crimes,” Anderson said. “We are just a piece of the puzzle that adds to the picture.”

In Anderson’s case, the picture spans 4,100 square miles, 88 cities and 53 law enforcement agencies. The L.A. County Coroner’s Office, handles about 16,000 cases each year, Anderson said.

On any given day, 350 to 500 bodies are contained in the coroner’s warehouse-sized cooler. The cases are managed by 35 death scene investigators, 25 pathologists and seven criminalists, he said.

The L.A. County Coroner’s office has an annual budget of about $32 million, compared to Douglas County Coroner’s office, which in 2012 handled 871 cases on a budget that came in under $900,000.

Anderson’s presentation came to Castle Rock courtesy of the Douglas County Coroner Lora Thomas. He was a guest speaker in Thomas’ Night With the Coroner series of presentations, which at Anderson’s May 2 presentation welcomed 242 guests.

Anderson took advantage of the evening to share his professional experience with family members who live in Colorado.

His sister, Chris Muhlenhaupt, is a Castle Rock resident who describes her brother as “quirky and funny” in personal settings. Her attendance at his presentation was her first look at Anderson in his professional role. Anderson has spent his career with the L.A. County Coroner’s Office.

“He was better than I thought,” Muhlenhaupt said. “He’s a much better public speaker than I expected.”