Friday, November 11, 2011

The Origin of TV Criminal Pathology Investigation

Popular TV programs such as CSI, NCIS, or CSI Miami, with their investigators and medical examiners solving crimes from an autopsy, dates back to the 1970s show Quincy. In all likelihood however, they all have their origins from a novel written in 1975 entitled Autopsy by John Feegel. Born and raised in EH, John and brother Richard were the sons of Fred and Eva Feegel. Fred (Buddy), a resident state trooper, was known as the “Singing State Cop” performing as a tenor in local productions.

Dr. John Feegel was the medical examiner in Tampa Florida and pathologist and chief of staff at South Florida Baptist Hospital earning his MD from the University of Ottawa in 1960 and his JD degree in law in 1964 at the University of Denver and also taught forensic pathology at Emory College. Autopsy, Feegel’s first novel, brings out in subterfuge the names of people and places that may well be recognized locally. Generally the book was about a man from Florida who is found dead in a Middleburg Motel called “The Brownstone.”

Local names are woven into the story including Tampa attorney G. Markham Hurst, Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Campbell and Merton Hitchcock of Hitchcock's Funeral home. It is the character Campbell that presumably emulates the exploits of the author. Dr. Feegel, author of seven mystery novels, was recipient of the prestigious “Edgar” award presented by the Mystery Writers of America in 1976.

A celebrated pathologist, Feegel was the medical examiner in charge of the investigations in Atlanta concerning the deaths of 14 black children in 1980 and was retained by ABC as a consultant in the investigation into the death of Elvis Presley and subject of the television show 20/20 in December 1979 when it was speculated Presley’s death was drug related – big news 30 years ago!

John R. Feegel (1932-2003) wrote, in addition to Autopsy, Legal Aspects of Laboratory Medicine (1973), Death Sails the Bay (1978), The Dance Card (1981), Malpractice (1981), Not a Stranger (1983), and Death Among the Ruins (2002).