12 Investigates: Toxicologists at VCU concoct maggot milkshakes - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

12 Investigates: Toxicologists at VCU concoct "maggot milkshakes"

Posted: Updated:
  • More newsMore>>

  • Wyoming gas explosion prompts evacuation of town

    Wyoming gas explosion prompts evacuation of town

    Thursday, April 24 2014 9:55 AM EDT2014-04-24 13:55:47 GMT
    Residents and emergency crews were waiting for a fire to burn itself out after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant in a small town in southwestern Wyoming.More >>
    Residents and emergency crews are waiting for a fire to burn itself out after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant in a small town in southwestern Wyoming.More >>
  • breaking

    Amber Alert suspects arrested, toddler found safe

    Amber Alert suspects arrested, toddler found safe

    Thursday, April 24 2014 9:49 AM EDT2014-04-24 13:49:46 GMT
    According to WTVA, an Amber Alert has been issued for a missing Lowndes County toddler. Lowndes County Chief Deputy Marc Miley says they are searching for 2-year-old Malia Harris of Columbus. OfficialsMore >>
    Georgia officials believe suspects in the Mississippi Amber Alert case may be in southwest Georgia. Cook County, GA investigators have been actively searching the Lenox area for the suspects. Officials confirmed a heavy presence of law enforcement in that area Wednesday night.More >>
  • Russia to hold new military exercises in southwest

    Russia to hold new military exercises in southwest

    Thursday, April 24 2014 9:45 AM EDT2014-04-24 13:45:44 GMT
    Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says police have cleared the city hall in a southeastern city of pro-Russian protesters who had been occupying it for over a week.More >>
    Russia's defense minister on Thursday announced new military exercises along the Ukrainian border just hours after Ukrainian troops killed at least two pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine.More >>
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The offspring of flies may actually be doing the work of detectives, and not even know it.

10 years ago, NBC12 showed you VCU forensic toxicologists mixing maggots that had been feeding on pureed pork - laced with a drug.

They called it a maggot milkshake. They were trying to find out if you could figure out what kinds of drugs a person had in their system when they died... from the bugs that were feeding on the decomposing body.

"It's a legitimate question to ask, because oftentimes remains are found that are predominantly skeletonized," said VCU professor and forensic toxicologist Michelle Peace. She is now training the next generation of forensic scientists, all while making sense of her research on bugs and drugs.

"It's the old adage that are moms tells us, you are what you eat," said Peace.

Bodies left outside in the elements deteriorate quickly. And it's true - the bugs that soon take over could help detectives discover what the victim was doing just before death. What drugs were in the system, what poisons?

"If the larvae are consuming tissues, and those tissues on the body contain a drug, well then that drug will then be in a maggot," said Peace.

A lot's changed on campus in 10 years. Forensic science is now a department at VCU with around 450 graduate and undergraduate students in the program. The research here has grown. Matthew Goldstein is a first year grad student trying to pull DNA out of trace amounts of evidence like saliva, or the tiniest of blood spatters.

"It's not at all what you see on TV, whenever my friends, I tell someone I'm in forensic science they go 'oh, CSI?' I'm like 'ahhh, short answer yes, long answer, not at all,'" said Goldstein.

Forensic scientists are already using insects to help figure out time of death in dead bodies - someday bugs, such as maggots, may be able to say so much more.

Peace is working to publish the research on maggot milkshakes next year.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow