Forensics: Another case of a “recaptured” bitemark showing “unique” features matching one man in the world.

This comes in three parts:

Part One

This is the long range photo of a bitemark determined so by two ABFO bitemark dentists Michael Sobel and Tom David.

Here is a color closeup on the left and a UV picture taken months later. The dentists considered the UV pic to show “unique” characteristics of just one man, the defendant John Kunco.

Kunco -1990-91 copy


Here are some quotes from these well-respected members of the AAFS and ABFO.

Sobel copy

TDavid copy



Part Two

Bitemark Evidence in the Kunco Case

The bitemark evidence in the Kunco case consisted of a photograph showing a bitemark on the shoulder of the victim. The bitemark evidence became case critical when the 40 pieces of physical forensic evidence recovered at the scene, which included hair, blood and fiber did not link to the suspect John Kunco. The authorities then consulted a board certified ABFO forensic dentist five months after the crime.

The consulting forensic dentist explained that a scale in the photograph is necessary for the bitemark comparison process. The forensic dentist recalled hearing about a technique that Dr. Michael West developed using UV photography to penetrate the skin in order to capture bruising that still exists below the skin. He believed that he might be able to “see” the old bitemark now not visible through the use of UV photography. The forensic dentist consulted a colleague and photographed the area on the shoulder with UV light. It is from this photograph 5 months after the bite to the shoulder that the intricate details of the biter’s teeth are described through “skin reading”.

Full 2011 article from Dr. David Averill’s blog

Part Three

2011 Court Denies Kunco Relief in “Recaptured Bite Mark” Case

The Innocence Project first took this case on in 1993 and appealed on the basis of the novel UV photographic technique the experts used to “recapture” the bitemark 5 months later. The experts learned the technique from former ABFO member and now dis-credited forensic analyst, Dr. Michael West (see previous post). The Innocence Project used Dr. Gregory Golden as the forensic dental photography expert who testified that the UV reflectance photographic technique was unreliable. He was opposed in court by Dr. Robert Barsley who the court felt satisfactorily rebutted Dr. Golden’s testimony since some sort of marks could be seen in the UV reflectance “recaptured photograph” purported to be a bitemark. There was no discussion at the time surrounding the ability of this bitemark without details to be used to identify a specific individual. Historically this was at a time when bitemarks were being used and accepted in the courts across the country with an irrational exuberance. It was only later as DNA that has been recovered from many of these overstated and unsupported opinion bitemark cases that the reliability and validity of bitemarks have come under intense scrutiny and question by the media.

Full article from

Also, in 2011, THE AGITATOR has further discussion on Kunco by Radley Balko.


This comes on the heels of the Texas Forensic Science Commission’s edict last Friday that all Texan bitemark cases were to be reviewed, I suggest that Pennsylvania courts do the same.

Readers should also note that Dr. Robert Barsley (the state expert supporting the Kunco trial bitemarks experts, is now (2015) chairman of the National Commission on Forensic Science bitemark committee. 

Thanks to Craig Cooley in providing valuable information in this post as he was the principal litigator in John Kunco’s appeal.

Craig M. Cooley
Cooley Law Office, PLLC
PA Offices: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
NC Office: Cary
State and Federal Post-Trial, Criminal Appeals,
Post-Conviction, Habeas, and Innocence Litigation


About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in AAFS, Bite Marks, Bitemarks, CSI, expert testimony, forensic science reform and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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