In a collaborative effort, the Ripley County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Margaret Mary Health brought an internationally-recognized forensic expert on strangulation and gunshot wounds, William Smock, M.D., to train area medical professionals, prosecutors, law enforcement and advocates, according to Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel.
Recently, nearly 50 allied professionals gathered at the Big Four Café to learn from Smock. Over the last 30 years, he has trained nurses, doctors, law enforcement officers and prosecutors all over the world in multiple fields, including officer-involved shootings, strangulation, gunshot wounds and motor vehicle trauma.
Smock is from southern Indiana and works as the police surgeon and Louisville Metro Police Department Clinical Forensic Medicine Program director. Additionally, he is a University of Louisville clinical professor of emergency medicine and Institute on Strangulation Prevention’s National Medical Advisory Committee chair.
The first half of the multidisciplinary training focused on enhancing the ability to detect, document and ultimately prevent strangulation injuries, the most lethal indicator of domestic violence and sexual assault and the strongest predictor for a subsequent domestic violence homicide.
Smock made clear that in many instances there are no marks or external injuries after a victim has been strangled. He provided many other factors an officer and/or medical professional can look for when assisting a potential strangulation victim when there is a lack of external injury. Further, he explained that even slight pressure to a person’s neck can result in significant internal injury and even death, and he stressed the importance that professionals be extremely diligent when searching for these injuries.
During the second half of the training, the expert focused on identifying and using forensic analysis to treat and review gunshot wounds. He emphasized that a forensic analysis of this information can assist an investigation in a multitude of ways, including a bullet’s trajectory and how the bullet exited and/or entered a person’s body.

Hertel and MMH chief nursing officer Liz Leising said this training has been in the works for several months and emphasized the benefits of law enforcement/prosecution and medical professionals training together when it comes to intentional injuries with the possibility of criminal implications. The protection of victims is the primary concern and a joint effort among law enforcement and the hospital will only assist in that goal. The prosecutor stated that there has always been a positive working relationship, but to be in the same room learning from the same individual goes a long way toward relationship building, treatment of potential victims and the collection of more evidence for potential criminal prosecution.
According to Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council statistics, strangulation cases and filings ranked fourth among all criminal offenses filed in the state in 2018. Domestic violence continues to increase in sheer numbers and severity of injury. Hertel said that domestic violence cases are inherently volatile and a continued problem in this area.
Both Hertel and Leising agree, “Given what’s occurring in our state and community, we need to equip our professionals as best we can to address this problem.”
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