Although bite marks have proved to be convincing evidence, the case of Irene Kennedy reveals the dangers involved in accepting such evidence with absolute confidence. On December 1, 1998, Irene Kennedy, 75, and Thomas Kennedy, 78, began their early morning walk in Francis William Bird Park in Walpole, Massachusetts. As was their custom, they walked a short distance and then separated to follow different paths before reuniting at the end of their strolls. But Irene Kennedy never rejoined her husband. She was brutally murdered, and her nearly naked body was left covered with bite marks.
Police dogs brought to the crime scene led police to the nearby home of Edmund Burke, the eccentric brother of the Kennedy’s son-in-law. Burke was questioned and was asked to submit samples of blood, saliva, fingerprints, palm-prints, and dental impressions. After carefully examining Burke’s dental impressions and the bite marks on Irene Kennedy’s body, forensic scientist Dr. Lowell Levine reportedly told police that the bite marks on the body were, with reasonable scientific certainty, made by Edmund Burke. On the basis of the available evidence, Burke was arrested on December 10 and charged with murder.
Eight days later, the results of tests comparing the DNA in Burke’s saliva with that collected from the bites on Irene Kennedy were released. The DNA samples did not match, but Burke was not released. A month later, a bloody palm-print found on Irene Kennedy’s thigh did not match the print of Burke’s palm. Burke was released on January 20. DNA and palm-prints, two types of evidence more conclusive than bite marks, had shown that Burke was not Irene Kennedy’s murderer. The crime remains unsolved.