Cadaver detection specialist dog joins Westmoreland County Coroner's Office
The newest member of Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha's staff is only 1 1⁄2 years old, stands just 2 feet from ground to shoulder and never removes her black mask.
Kai, a brown and black Belgian Malinois, was certified in cadaver recovery in Seymour, Ind., along with her handler, Deputy Coroner John Ackerman, in April, according to Bacha.
Bacha said Kai is specifically trained to assist the office at crime scenes and potential crime scenes with her keen sense for detecting blood, hair, body fluids and human remains.
“These breeds can detect trace elements that most humans cannot see or detect. Their senses are really amazing,” Ackerman said.
“We usually work alone. She is a workaholic. She's really machine-like.”
Although Ackerman has been a deputy coroner for 11 years, he has more than 20 years experience in training and handling cadaver detection dogs. He has been an associate instructor with Law Enforcement Training Specialist International Inc. for three years and has more than 200 hours of training with the organization.
He has worked with the coroner's office and the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department since the early 1990s.
Kai replaces the office's previous canine, Hanna, another Belgian Malinois, who died Dec. 22. Ackerman was Hanna's handler for nine years.
“It is hard to go from one dog to another. You have nine years experience with one dog and get to know her, then you have to get a new dog and start back at square one,” Ackerman said.
Ackerman said the office receives requests from all over the state for the assistance of the cadaver dog.
Hanna's last search was in September in Jefferson and Indiana counties, when a Brookville man was accused of robbing and murdering an acquaintance during a drug deal gone awry, then dismembering the body with a chain saw.
“Hanna was able to locate some of the remains,” Ackerman said.
The body parts were identified through fingerprints as those of 33-year-old Chet Allen Haddow of Punxsutawney. Michael Shugars, 33, is awaiting trial for murder in that case.
“These dogs can also detect old remains ... I tell people up to 100 years old. A few years ago, a landscaping crew in Murrysville uncovered a couple of pieces of a man's skull in an area where a man was suspected of committing suicide two years before that. I took Hanna up and we were able to find more remains, including his pelvic bone,” Ackerman said.
Ackerman said Hanna was able to assist investigators locating evidence in the decades-old mysterious death of Curtis Eutsey, 18, of Mt. Pleasant, who was killed by his girlfriend's brother between April 1990 and November 1992 in Mt. Pleasant Township. Hanna was able to locate bone fragments in a remote area where two men digging for scrap metal stumbled upon a few bones in 2010.
Robert Daniels, 45, of Unity pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in October 2012 and was sentenced to serve eight to 16 years in prison.
“Cadaver detection dogs help families in locating their loved ones and give them some sense of closure and peace,” Ackerman said.
This year, Kai will complete water cadaver recovery training, in which she will be able to detect the scent of a human body underwater from the shoreline or a moving boat, he noted.
Kai was acquired as a puppy in January 2013 from Logan Haus Kennels in Lewisburg, W.Va.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Coming off hill revives Seton Hill University, downtown Greensburg
- Latrobe pharmacy will offer overdose antidote
- Fines against MAX Environmental up to Westmoreland judge
- ‘Bride’ goes on at Geyer theater in Scottdale
- Westmoreland community leaders discuss how to meet hunger needs
- Mutual Aid plans fundraising throughout Westmoreland County to bolster member numbers
- 4 sentenced for roles in botched Lower Burrell heist
- Greensburg Hempfield Area Library board to consider tax referendum
- Marathoner hit by vehicle in Murrysville recuperates
- Ligonier YMCA expansion back in court
- 4 seek 3 nominations for Southwest Greensburg council