In 1992, a Phoenix man named Ray Krone was convicted of murdering a cocktail waitress named Kim Ancona. The crime was brutal. Ancona had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times, and bitten on her breast and neck. Krone was indicted after a local dentist named John Piakis, who had received all of five days of forensic training, told police and prosecutors that Krone’s crooked teeth created the marks on Ancona’s body.
At trial, a more experienced bite-mark analyst from Las Vegas named Ray Rawson confirmed Piakis’ findings: The bite marks on Ancona’s neck could only have come from Krone.
Plourd chose Mississippi dentist Michael West for his test. West had long been under fire for dubious testimony in dozens of criminal cases, including one in which he claimed to be able to match the bite marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich found at the crime scene to the dentition of a defendant. I’ve written extensively on West over the last few years, most recently in a feature about the 1992 Louisiana murder trial and eventual conviction of Jimmie Duncan. In that case, I obtained a video showing West repeatedly jamming Duncan’s dental mold into the body of the young girl Duncan was accused of killing. Forensic specialists say that what West does in the video isn’t a remotely acceptable method of analysis, and may amount to criminal evidence tampering. Duncan is on death row in Louisiana, based in part on West’s analysis.
Plourd selected West because, even though the dentist was still active in the Mississippi and Louisiana courts, he had been suspended from the American Board of Forensic Odontology since the mid-1990s, and therefore might not be aware of the somewhat notorious Krone case. Plourd was right.