Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Phineas case in Missouri: my report and analysis

Lots of folks have been following the case of Phineas, the Labrador in Missouri accused of biting a child and sentenced to death by the local Mayor. Full details can be found on the 'Net, including the dramatic allegations regarding his treatment and alleged confinement in a Fire Station basement.

However all of that played out, I did an analysis of the "bite" wounds on the child involved and compared them to the documented photographic measurements of Phineas' jaw and dental structure. An associate of mine, Dr. Ken Cohrn (who is a forensic odontologist with long experience dealing with human remains identification) also did an analysis. And guess what? We both agree that Phineas is not responsible for the alleged bite injury-in fact, we both independently exclude Phineas!

Ken's report is with the legal team (as is mine), but since the reports have now been submitted and are a matter of record I am posting mine here for all to read.


James W. Crosby CBCC-KA
Certified Behavior Consultant-Canine
* Jacksonville, Florida * 904-476-7655 *

30 June 2013

Joseph Simon, Esq.
720 S Ballas Rd
Kirkwood, MO 63122

Dear Mr. Simon:

At your request I have reviewed materials regarding the alleged bite to a 7 year old female by a dog known as Phineas, described as a yellow Labrador type male dog. The alleged bite injury reportedly occurred on 22 June 2012.

The materials I have reviewed include color photographs of the alleged bite injury, color photographs examined and analyzed by Mr. Richard Quindry, color photographs taken of reference materials such as shirt buttons, shirt details, a hospital bracelet, and a series of color photographs taken by you of the dentition and jaw details of the dog known as Phineas on 4 June 2013.

Based on these photographs I have been able to make the following observations, and reach the following conclusions regarding this incident.


Based on the photographs supplied of the dog Phineas, I can make the following observations;

Phineas’ jaws and teeth appear consistent with an adult, healthy Labrador Retriever-type dog. He possesses full dentition: he shows four full-length canine teeth (two upper, two lower), twelve incisors (six upper, six lower), and at least twelve pre-molars (visible in photographs - six upper-three to a side, six lower, three to a side). This is common dentition for domestic dogs. The canine teeth are unbroken and in common configuration-uppers falling slightly outside of alignment with the lowers. The tips of the canine teeth protrude no less than twice the length of the incisors past the overall level of the incisor tips. The tips of all four canine teeth are slightly splayed, the lower canines more pronounced than the uppers.

Phineas’ incisors are slightly irregular. The central lower incisors show tips only slightly above the line of the gum. The second pair of lower incisors are clearly slightly longer than the first or third incisors. In the upper jaw the incisors are clearly defined and separate, with clear points. Phineas is not missing any of the front teeth.

The alignment of Phineas’ lower incisors is nearly straight across with minimal visible bow to the arch of the bite. His upper incisors are only slightly more bowed.

The line of premolars is, in both jaws, set within a line stretching from the canines to the molars. This gives a dog a slightly “hourglass” shape to the palate and the line of the bite. The front three pre-molars are distinct in the side view photographs. The front-most of the upper pre-molars are located approximately 17 millimeters posterior to the upper canine teeth; the second upper pre-molar is approximately 12 mm to the rear of the first pre-molar; the third upper pre-molar is approximately 16 mm behind the second upper pre-molar. The rear pre-molars are spaced approximately 74 mm apart across the width of the mouth. The lower pre-molars are similarly located at distances of 28, 12, and 13 mm respectively posterior to the lower canines.


The photograph provided is a color photo of what appears to be the side and front of a human child. If we orient the photograph so that the visible size tag of the red shirt worn by the pictured person is to the upper right-hand corner of the photograph, the alleged bite injury is oriented to the viewer’s upper right to lower left. The marks visible appear to be clear bruising on human flesh, mostly reddish to purple in color. The shape of the marking is an elongated oval, with clear curvature to both ends of the oval. No bruises or marks appear to be outside the general line of the oval. There appear to be only minor breaks in the surface of the skin, particularly along the upper longer side of the oval, all of which seem to be near the center of the long side. No corresponding breaks in the skin are found on the lower side of the oval.

Exact measurements of the injury are unavailable at this time since no scale was included in the photo. Color photographs of identifiable items that are identified as close or exact copies of the items in the original photos were obtained by your office. The items that I have used to establish my measurements of the alleged bite are: 1: the hospital wrist band worn by the victim in several of the photographs and 2: the large pearl-colored button at the top of the victim’s aqua-colored shirt, as seen in the photographs. Both of these items have been measured and documented and both of these items appear to be parallel to the camera plane in the victim photographs presented, allowing their use as a measuring standard.


As above noted, I used the pearl-colored button and the hospital wrist band as constant measuring standards in order to extrapolate the measurements of the alleged bite wound. In other photographs provided by your office I was able to determine that the diameter of the button was 8 mm. Although the button is positioned slightly behind the plane of the alleged bite in the photograph, this difference is minimal and would have the effect of making the alleged bite slightly smaller than the comparison dimensions. The width of the white markable section of the hospital wrist band is 19 mm, top to bottom. These were used as standards for comparison.

I then proceeded to open the photos of the alleged bite, including the photo provided of the victim showing both the button and the hospital band clearly. Using that photo I measured the button and the white band area in the photo viewing software Gimp. In Gimp I measured the button and the band in pixels. Pixel size is consistent within a single photograph, and as such the number of pixels across a measured section of a photograph in the same plane and at the same approximate distance from the focal plane of the camera will be the same. The button measured 28 pixels across the diameter. The white section of the hospital band measured 66 pixels across. Giving the known, measured size of the button and band, we can establish a scale of millimeters that is consistent within 0.5 pixels.

Using this as a comparison scale, I then measured the distance between the first and third clearly visible apparent breaks in the victim’s skin that are angles lower left to upper right in the photo. These marks are clearly delineated and are in the same plane, and same distance from the camera focal plane, as both the button and the wrist band. This should provide a solid measurement with minimal distortion.

The measurement across the centers of the three apparent skin breaks was found to be 9.03 mm (31.4 pixels). I then used this distance to measure the identifying marks and dimensions of the alleged bite in other close-up photos as the distance between these clear marks was within the alleged bite, in the same plane as the alleged bite image, and constant in all photos provided. These measurements were then compared to the photographically documented measurements of the accused dog Phineas’ jaw and dentition.

Description                                                            “Bite”           Phineas
Distance across upper canine teeth
Distance across lower canine teeth
Widest point upper jaw
Widest point lower jaw
not taken
Upper left incisors #1 to 3
Pre-molars left upper #1 to 3


After comparing the photo of the alleged bite injury and the photos of the teeth identified as belonging to Phineas, I can render the following opinion:

1)   The alleged bite injury is significantly smaller, both in length and in depth, than the bite likely to be caused by a dog jaw most closely resembling that of Phineas. The bite measures a maximum width of 31.6mm (lower jaw engagement on victim). Phineas’ jaw shows a maximum width of 74.0mm, more than twice the size of the exhibited bite. Phineas’ upper canine teeth are distinct and span a distance of 50.0mm, nearly two times the span of the most likely canine tooth contact points on the exhibited bite. The small puncture wound visible in the photograph (at approximately the one o’clock position on the bite if the bite, oriented vertically, is regarded as similar to a clock face) was used as a measuring point in this analysis and helps confirm the fact that the alleged bite injury is smaller than the verified measurements of Phineas’ bite profile.

2)   The spacing between the skin break marks that could have been caused by Phineas’ pre-molars are too closely spaced together (9.03mm in the exhibited bite vs. 29.0mm for Phineas) and are located too close to the front of the bite (approximately 2cm to the front of the “bite” arch vs. approximately 3 cm to the canines, which are significantly posterior to the front arch of the jaw) to have been made by Phineas.

3)   If the alleged injury had indeed been caused by Phineas, the force necessary to cause the clear, distinct bruising would have definitely caused full impact with, and penetration by, Phineas’ canine teeth, leaving clear and unmistakable puncture wounds corresponding to the location of Phineas’ canine teeth. These canine puncture wounds are not evidenced in the photographs. The location of the single apparent puncture visible in the photographs located towards the upper-right of the photo image is not consistent with the dental structure of Phineas.

4)   The arch of the alleged bite injury does not match that of Phineas: Phineas’ lower incisors are almost in a straight line. Both front lines of the alleged bite are clearly arched. The contour of the alleged bite shown is not consistent with Phineas’ dental structure. In the thousands of known dog bites I have personally examined the curvature of a typical dog bite is not consistent with the images shown. If indeed this is a photo of a dog bite it must certainly be from a jaw of different shape from that of Phineas.

5)   The clear spacing between the Phineas’ canine teeth and his premolars is missing in the alleged bite injury bruising.

Although the alleged bite bruising is not clear enough, or distinct enough, to make a positive identification as to the cause of the alleged bite injury, there is sufficient conflict in the measured evidence and physical appearance of the alleged bite bruising and the jaw of the dog Phineas that I can reasonably exclude Phineas, to a degree of scientific certainty, as having been the source of this bruising injury.

Respectfully submitted.
James W. Crosby