Over the course of four hit specials, America Undercover's "Autopsy" series has shown HBO viewers how forensic pathologists can serve as living interpreters for the voices of the dead, unlocking secrets of mysterious crimes that might otherwise go unsolved. Now, THE BEST OF AUTOPSY captures the most memorable moments from these shows when it debuts THURSDAY, FEB. 5 (11:00 p.m.-midnight ET), exclusively on HBO.
Other playdates: Feb. 10 (10:00 p.m.), 12 (3:50 a.m.), 18 (10:00 p.m.), 22 (12:55 a.m.) and 24 (3:35 a.m.).
Beginning with the debut of THE BEST OF AUTOPSY, HBO will present a different America Undercover documentary every Thursday night in the same time slot. Other February shows include "Shock Video 2: The Show Business of Crime and Punishment" (Feb. 12), "Hookers at the Point" (Feb. 19) and "Hookers at the Point: Goin' Out Again" (Feb. 26).
Among the forensic pathologists -- who are known as "detectives of death" -- spotlighted in the show is Dr. Michael Baden, a real-life "Quincy" who has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies in his 33-year career, reviewed the autopsies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman at the O.J. Simpson trial, and examined victims of the recent TWA Flight 800 crash. The former Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, Dr. Baden was also consulted in the cases of Claus von Bulow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, John Belushi, Andy Warhol, Christian Brando, Montgomery Clift and the Romanovs.
Segments of THE BEST OF AUTOPSY include:
- New York Story -- On a winter's night in New York City, a young girl offered to walk an elderly woman home. Three hours later, the girl was found strangled to death on an 11th-floor landing, with what looked to be a sneaker imprint on her neck. Questioning employees of a diner where the girl had eaten, the police found one man with a record of rape; in his apartment was a pair of sneakers that perfectly matched the imprints on the girl. He was found guilty and sentenced to life.
- Maggot Mystery -- In 1985, an odor led police into a New York City apartment, where they found a skeleton submerged in a bathtub filled with maggots. The maggots were collected by Dr. Michael Baden and analyzed by toxicologists, who discovered traces of barbiturates. The cause of death: drug overdose.
- Funhouse Dummy -- After the arm of a funhouse dummy in Long Beach, Cal., broke off, it was determined that the body was a real corpse. An autopsy and records search revealed the mystery man to be Elmer McCurdy, an outlaw killed in a gunfight years before!
- Billy Martin -- After baseball legend Billy Martin died in a truck accident on Christmas Day 1989, surviving fellow passenger Bill Reedy claimed Martin had been behind the wheel. Baden's examination, however, revealed that Martin's impact injuries were all on the right side of his body, and the hairs found on the passenger's side of the truck's shattered windshield were Martin's, proving Reedy was the driver.
- Joan Bent -- The frozen body of 47-year-old Joan Bent, a victim of strangulation, was found in the trunk of her car. Her husband claimed that on the night she died, Joan left home for work at 6:30 p.m. following a 4:30 dinner. However, Baden discovered several intact potato fragments in Bent's stomach, indicating she had died within a half-hour of eating. Based on this evidence, the husband was convicted of murder.
As Michael Baden wrote in his 1989 best-seller "Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner," forensic pathology is "a profession that is enormously gratifying. It offers the adventure of detection, the excitement of discovery and the satisfaction of searching for the truth."
THE BEST OF AUTOPSY is produced by Gaby Monet, whose other HBO documentaries include the four previous "Autopsy" specials, "Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse," "Attempted Murder: Confrontation," "The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer" (in which Dr. Baden appeared), "Confronting Evil" and "Murder 9 to 5." Arthur Ginsberg is the director and editor. Marlene Sanders is the narrator. Sheila Nevins is the executive producer of the America Undercover series.