It’s always difficult presenting graphic autopsy images in an appropriate way. There’s nothing “appropriate” about death, and so there’s no way to do this that doesn’t feel uncomfortable.
In True Crime the cadaver is often by far the most important source of evidence. It’s also the surest way to feel the scale and scope of a crime from the victim’s perspective. It’s shocking, and it should be. It should disturb us.
In DEATH AT THE MANSION the wound to Rebecca’s neck is shown. Without seeing this wound firsthand it would be difficult to appreciate the injury even with a technical description.
What we do see is a very severe asymmetrical gash caused by the rope into the right side of the neck [Rebecca’s left side]. This immediately suggests two scenarios:
- Rebecca was hanging in a lopsided fashion [similar to how she is seen laying on the lawn, and also with her head turned slightly].
- Rebecca seemed to have been dropped fairly rapidly to create the gash in the first place.
If we imagine Rebecca hanging “lopsidedly”, we see her knees bent upwards even though gravity ought to be pulling her legs down. It also means her head is turned at an angle that is at odds with how it should look if she had hung herself.
This suggests she was cut down not only to dramatize a theatrical rescue [even though she was clearly dead], but because if she had been found hanging, the unnatural position would immediately arouse suspicion. If Rebecca was killed close to 03:00, then, if she was hung relatively late, close to sunrise or shortly before Adam called 911, then her body may have had several hours to stiffen in the position she was bound and strangled in.
From the perspective of neighbor’s noticing something and alerting the cops before her murderer “was ready”, we can imagine leaving the staging of the suicide until the last possible moment. Does that make sense?
Although it’s debatable whether in practice law enforcement could have or should have done a reverse suicide staging in situ, if Rebecca was hung up again, this could have “proved” the above point – that immediately on sight, seeing her hanging, the cops would have realized the suicide didn’t look right. However significant tissue damage would have been incurred in such an exercise.
From the original Case File images, a black and white image presents a very different view of Rebecca’s face and neck than the autopsy photo. Her eyes are slightly open and her mouth wide open either from the shirt stuffed in her mouth, or Adam performing CPR or both. Contrast her mouth with the above image where her lips are obviously closed.
The use of the shirt might also be to conceal or minimize the ugliness of the hanging wound after the fact.