Among all the cases with which Dr. John Heidingsfelder was involved during his 16 years as a pathologist in Indiana, two stand out in his mind.
‘My most interesting investigation would be my working on the Orville Lynn Majors case. He was a nurse at a hospital in Indiana. When he went to work there the death rate soared from about 20 to 30 people a year up to about 150 over a 22-month period,’ he explained.
Majors was brought to trial after a five-year investigation which involved Dr. Heidingsfelder, another pathologist and other medical specialists.
‘We were on a medical review panel. We looked for actual causes of death. This was the largest investigation of this type in Indiana history. It took eight to nine months to go through about 150 medical records to try to determine which cases would be the best ones to further investigate and exhume. More than one million dollars were spent. It was the most expensive investigation ever in Indiana,’ he said.
The pathologists working the case performed 15 exhumation autopsies. The case went to trial in October 1999 with Majors charged with six deaths that were carefully selected based on the findings of examinations and clinical knowledge of what happened before the deaths, Dr. Heidingsfelder explained.
He testified at the trial of Majors, who was convicted and sentenced to 360 years in prison.
In another highly publicised case, Dr. Heidingsfelder testified at the trial of John Matthew Stephenson who accused of a triple homicide by shooting three people with a high-powered rifle.
Stephenson was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to death for each of the murders.
‘I was told that was the most expensive trial in Indiana history. When I testified at the trial, I was basically on the witness stand for three days. It took about 15 hours to testify on the autopsy findings. That was the most I’ve had to testify in court in my career,’ he said.