Smith took Marsh
aside. "Warden," he said, "that fellow may have mislaid his rifle,
but I think he knows where to find it. I saw him shove it into a brush pile
down the trail."
The rifle was
found, but Michaud still insisted on his innocence. Marsh was certain he had
his man. Proof, without that bullet, was another thing.
He allowed Michaud
to go home, taking pains to brief him once more on scientific detection
methods. Twice that night, Marsh and the sheriff went to Michaud's home and
took statements. They went back again the next morning. Each time Michaud made
a few changes. Just to keep the pressure on, Marsh drove slowly by the house
several times that afternoon. It was two days before Michaud broke. But he
broke. He had mistaken the woman for a deer. What he hadn't been able to erase
from his mind was the picture of her sprawled there by a stump, a cigaret still
burning in her dead hand.
Here again was a
seasoned hunter and a family man of good reputation.
Obviously, the most
damning single piece of evidence in a woods killing is the bullet. Often this
clinching piece of evidence is missing, and Marsh is hard put to make his
charges stick. In spots like this, he digs deeper in science's bag of tricks.
Time and again he has gone along with no more than a bit of recovered lead or
cartridge case picked up at the scene.
What most hunters
don't know is that it takes just the merest fragment of lead for presumptive
evidence of guilt on the part of the shooter. A batch of bullets of given
caliber and make has theoretically the same composition of lead and traces of
other metals, but there is actually just enough of a variance for a positive
identification by spectroscopic analysis and comparison of a bullet fragment
and an unfired cartridge from the same batch.
It was along about
this time that Marsh, a reflective man, began pondering his figures again. Just
why was it that the majority of woods accidents?most particularly the cases of
mistaken identity?were caused by seasoned hunters? There could be no distortion
in his breakdowns. He wondered whether it would be possible to isolate a
certain type of person more prone to accidents than another. Reading the
minutes of a hunting-safety clinic in Michigan gave Marsh an idea. At this
meeting someone had suggested a psychiatric test as a prerequisite for a
hunting license. Nothing has been done about this suggestion in Michigan, but
Marsh decided to do something about it in Maine. He considered a psychiatric
test for license applicants unrealistic; but if those shooters convicted in
woods killings could be studied, it might lead to an explanation.
It did. In every
case examined, the subject emerged as a man of average or above-average
intelligence. The only significant deviation charted was in the matter of these
hunters' reactions to visual-perception tests. To the inkblot personality test,
for example, the subject almost invariably reacted more quickly than the
average. Even more significant was the fact that in each case the subject
considered his reaction deliberate.
In the light of
this evidence it was obvious to Marsh that most of the checks and controls so
clamorously advocated by the public to reduce woods accidents were designed to
protect the hunter from the wrong fellow.