From Ron Franscell:
In every exhumation, there's a tense moment just before the casket lid is raised. What's inside? How has the natural process of decay reshaped this human?
It was no different Tuesday at the exhumation and autopsy of J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, a native Beaumont son who grew up to be one of rock 'n' roll's earliest stars and one of it's earliest tragedies. He died on Feb. 3, 1959, in a plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
Some 48 years later, during the process of moving his remains to a more visible new grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery, the Bopper's only son asked renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass to examine his dad's corpse and offer an opinion on the cause of his death. You see, over the years, wacky conspiracy theories have arisen about gunplay on the plane and the possibvility that the Bopper died while trying to go for help after the crash.
The results of the autopsy were not surprising, but conclusive: The Big Bopper might have died instantly from a number of massive injuries, including a smashed skull, a broken neck and a crushed chest. Other injuries -- a shattered pelvis, broken back, and several compound fractures in his legs -- would have made surviving more than a few minutes unlikely. The poor man came undone in a thousand ways. There was no foul play.