It was one in the morning on Christmas Eve of 2008, and had just flown from Michigan to Florida to do his own examination of the body. But what he found, he was not expecting.
“They didn’t open the head, I could not believe that,” Spitz said upon viewing the body. “Well, what else is important in a body that is skeletonized? Don’t you want to look inside and see what happened?”
The body he is talking about: Caylee Anthony. The case he testified for: the Casey Anthony trial, one of the most high profile cases of the past several years.
Spitz, who has been in forensic pathology for 58 years, was sitting in his St. Clair Shores office when he was first called to be a part of the Casey Anthony case. At that time in 2008, the case started out small and no one know what it would become or the attention it would draw, said Spitz.
“(The case) started as nothing else than the usual average case where a little kid was killed or died or nobody knew how,” Spitz said. “But as it continued during those three years between then and now, this case grew by leaps and bounds. It just grew beyond any description.”
But Spitz is used to being in the public eye after being involved in numerous high-profile cases over the past several decades. The cases he has served in include the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the O.J. Simpson case.
“If you get to be well-known, if you write articles and lecture various places … then people get your name and will say ‘Oh, I heard so-and-so or I saw him on television, let’s get him,’” Spitz said of being asked to testify in cases.
Spitz did not always have such notoriety. Spitz, who was born in Germany to physician parents, grew up in Israel. After finishing medical school at the Hebrew University and interning in the pathology department at a local army hospital, Spitz then worked at the coroner’s office in Jerusalem for seven years.
However, he was drawn by the opportunities and technology of the United States.
“I wanted to see what it was like since everyone was talking about how medicine had advanced, so I decided I was going to go to America,” Spitz recalled.
So after moving to Baltimore, Md. in 1959 for a forensic pathology residency program, Spitz began his renowned career. While only seeing one homicide during his time in Jerusalem, Spitz saw several hundred homicides in just his first year in the U.S.
And Spitz continued this work when he came to Detroit in 1972 to serve as the Chief Medical Examiner for Macomb County. During his time in this position from 1972 to 2004, Spitz worked closely with his team investigating complicated drug-ring murders, domestic violence cases, suicides, plane crashes, etc.
Spitz's son, Dr. Daniel Spitz, is now at the helm of the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office.
While Spitz enjoys collaborating with people and other professionals to learn the most he can, he was denied this opportunity during the Casey Anthony trial. Spitz was forced to do a second autopsy after being denied attendance to the first autopsy by Dr. Jan Garavaglia, a Discovery Health TV Star and the prosecution’s medical examiner.
During his autopsy, Spitz concluded there was no proof of whom or what killed 2-year-old Caylee Anthony. His testimony was crucial in contributing to the doubt that surrounded the case.
“There was a huge hole in the prosecution’s case. That’s not one where you put your finger, that’s one where you can put your whole foot,” Spitz said.
While Spitz was surprised with the speed in which the jury came back at just 11 hours, he was not surprised with their verdict of not guilty.
“There was no evidence and the prosecutor overcharged big time,” Spitz said of the case. “I mean the charge of capital punishment for a case with this amount of evidence is ridiculous.”
Even though the verdict caused a huge explosion from the public, Spitz said he has not received any letters or phone calls disagreeing with his testimony. Quite the contrary, Spitz has received much praise and approval from other medical examiners and defense attorneys for his work in the trial.
When not examining bodies for trials, Spitz has retired from autopsies. He spends most of his time doing conferences around the country, such as a seminar at Wayne State University, and writing, such as his well-recognized textbook Medicolegal Investigation of Death.
Spitz enjoys this opportunity to educate and understands the importance of being involved in cases, whether high-profile or not.
“It’s just another day on the job. Once you sit there in the hot seat, whether it’s a big case or a little case, it doesn’t make a difference,” Spitz said.