The Strange Case of the Montecito Mudslide Human Remains [Updated Nov 1]. [See Comments for some pertinent observations]




Montecito mudslide, Jan 2018/ U.S. Coast Guard photo/ Wikimedia Commons



Early in the morning of January 9, 2018, the wealthy suburb of Montecito, California, just east of Santa Barbara, was hit with an avalanche of mud that destroyed numerous homes and took 23 lives. After a devastating fire in the hills above the town, followed by a huge downpour of rain, there was nothing to stop the earth and debris that bore down on the unprepared inhabitants. Two of the dead and missing, a small child and a teenager, were not recovered by rescuers.

There would be a lot of recriminations in the months to come, as Santa Barbara County officials were blamed for the lack of preparation. The people of Montecito were angry, and many still are. One of the dead was Dave Cantin, a popular local Scoutmaster, whose body was found washed down near the Pacific Ocean beach. Dave's wife, Kim, was spared, as was their daughter, Lauren. But despite extensive searching, their teenage son, Jack Cantin, was never found. But Kim never gave up hoping that one day he would be laid to rest. Neither did many of her neighbors.

In January of this year, Kim Cantin approached the University of California, Santa Barbara to see if any of its scientists could help with the search. UCSB put her in touch with Danielle Kurin, an archaeologist and forensic anthropologist at the university. For Kurin, the timing could not be better. She was up for tenure, and it was not sure that she was going to get it. There were two reasons for that. 

First, Kurin had recently come back to work from a three-year administrative leave after the university, in a Title IX proceeding, had found that she had retaliated multiple times against students who had reported her former husband--a Peruvian archaeologist who worked with Kurin at sites in and around the city of Andahuaylas--for sexual harassment. Many of her colleagues in the university's anthropology department, along with archaeologists across the United States and Peru, felt she was a "danger to students" (as many put it in just those word) and should not be rewarded for her documented misconduct. Feelings were even stronger after her colleagues found out that her husband was accused of sexually assaulting a student in 2018, and that Kurin was kicked out of a field school umbrella organization for failing to provide a safe environment for the students.

Second, in June 2020, Kurin had sued me, the journalist who reported on her misconduct with the help of many survivors and other witnesses, for defamation. After 13 months the case was eventually settled; but very recently, after Kurin violated the settlement agreement, I declared the agreement null and void.

Obviously I am not objective where Kurin is concerned, and I expect that any discerning reader will examine what I say carefully to see how well I back it up. However, what I can say is that during the litigation, my attorneys and I received thousands of pages of documents in discovery, and that every page backed up my reporting fully. Indeed, some of the documents revealed additional details we were not originally aware of, which only made the case against Kurin worse and more definitive.

Very shortly after Kurin agreed to help try to find Jack Cantin's remains, her department met to decide its recommendation on her tenure bid. According to several sources, the verdict was thumbs down. That left the decision to the university administration, which overruled the department's recommendation in August and awarded her tenure. I have heard a number of hypotheses as to why UCSB gave her tenure, ranging from threats by Kurin to sue the university--something she had also done back in 2016 when she was denied a promotion while on administrative leave--to a deal by the university to award her tenure if she dropped the lawsuit against me, which was very embarrassing to the institution, to possible pressure from Kurin's father, Richard Kurin, a major official at the Smithsonian Institution and a very powerful scientist who is widely feared by Danielle's colleagues. I don't know whether any of these scenarios are correct, or whether the truth could involve a combination of all of them.

But the university took no public action between February 2021, when the department was likely to have passed on its recommendation, and August 2021, when tenure was awarded.

In the meantime, Kurin and her volunteers worked in the hills of Montecito, trying to find the remains of Jack Cantin.

On July 14, 2021, Kurin and I signed the settlement agreement, and she applied to the court to dismiss the case the same day. The following day, U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti of the Southern District of New York, who was overseeing the litigation, approved the settlement and ended the lawsuit.

On July 22, seven days later, Kurin and Kim Cantin announced to the media that Jack Cantin's remains had been found. Kurin told reporters that she was "90 percent" sure that the remains belonged to Jack, and provided the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office with a one-page fact sheet explaining her findings. However--and this is a very key part of the story--the remains were reportedly found nearly two months earlier, over Memorial Day weekend, by Kurin and her team.

The delayed reporting of the remains to county officials clearly put the Sheriff's Office in a tricky situation. In a terse statement issued later on July 22, the Office made it clear that they were not taking Kurin's word for it, pending their own investigation; and, that they had found out from a media report rather than from Kurin directly. It is worth citing the statement in full:


"Today the Sheriff’s Office received the KEYT news story that indicated that the remains of Jack Cantin, a 17-year-old who has been missing and presumed dead since the devastating 1/9 Debris Flow in 2018, had been found.

Later today the Sheriff / Coroner’s Office received, and is in the process of reviewing, a one-page 'Fast Fact Forensic Report' prepared by a UCSB anthropologist, Dr. Danielle Kurin, that was referenced in today’s news story. In the 'Fast Fact' report she opined that the remains 'are consistent with those of Jack Cantin,' and that she is 'over 90% certain that these remains are those of Jack Cantin.'

Sheriff / Coroner investigators are seeking the full report from Dr. Kurin. Once obtained, it will be reviewed as part of the ongoing investigation. In the meantime, the case of Jack Cantin’s disappearance remains open. We will continue to work closely with the Cantin family on this case, as we have since the day he disappeared."


The local media, however, cast little doubt on Kurin's claim, and a number of stories--at least in their headlines--declared flatly that Jack had been found.

As I write, however, the Sheriff's Office, along with the country medical examiner and coroner, have not announced the results of their own investigation of the remains, which is still ongoing. Raquel Zick, the Sheriff's spokesperson, told me that there are a "lot of moving parts" to the investigation and that one reason for the delay (now more than three months) is that they were still awaiting Kurin's more detailed report. And that, she told me, was delayed because Kurin wanted to have it "peer reviewed," even though it is not an academic paper.

I have talked to a number of law enforcement sources and anthropologists about the two-month delay between the supposed finding of the human remains and the announcement to the media (not to law enforcement, as I mentioned above). They were unanimous that holding onto the remains, or even removing them from where they were found before notifying law enforcement, was a violation of California's Health and Safety Code concerning the handling of dead bodies. The relevant section reads:


(b)  In the event of discovery or recognition of any human remains in any location other than a dedicated cemetery, there shall be no further excavation or disturbance of the site or any nearby area reasonably suspected to overlie adjacent remains until the coroner of the county in which the human remains are discovered has determined, in accordance with Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 27460) of Part 3 of Division 2 of Title 3 of the Government Code, that the remains are not subject to the provisions of Section 27491 of the Government Code or any other related provisions of law concerning investigation of the circumstances, manner and cause of any death, and the recommendations concerning the treatment and disposition of the human remains have been made to the person responsible for the excavation, or to his or her authorized representative, in the manner provided in Section 5097.98 of the Public Resources Code. The coroner shall make his or her determination within two working days from the time the person responsible for the excavation, or his or her authorized representative, notifies the coroner of the discovery or recognition of the human remains.


In other words, according to the experts I have consulted, neither Kurin nor Kim Cantin (with whom we must have considerable sympathy) had the right to remove the remains and examine them in any way. As one leading American forensic anthropologist put it to me, after I asked them to comment without specifying the circumstances other than that it concerned a mudslide victim (I also promised them anonymity so they could opine freely):


"Ethical questions are often difficult ones especially in the abstract.  On the surface the scenario you describe is odd.  In many states when a forensic scientist encounters human remains they are required to contact authorities, usually an ME [medical examiner] or law enforcement. This is especially true if the remains are known to be recent enough for a possible I.d.  Is it possible that the remains are “premodern” and unlikely to be identifiable?  Could the conditions of discovery indicate that the mudslide occurred many decades ago…or longer?  If the remains are, say 100 years old or more, then the laws and probably the ethics are variable among jurisdictions.  Having said that, if the remains are associated with recent events (a known mudslide?) then I would question, on both legal and ethical grounds, the decision not to contact authorities."


Obviously the circumstances remain murky. Zick would not tell me whether or not the Sheriff was looking into possible legal issues in the case, and neither Kurin nor her attorney have responded to a number of questions I have posed to them about those circumstances (not surprisingly, of course.) Nor, to date, has the UCSB press office responded to questions about what they knew about Kurin's work in this area, whether they were informed after Memorial Day that she had purportedly found the remains, where the remains were analyzed, and other relevant questions.

Based on certain indications I have been given, I believe that the Sheriff's Office will be closing its investigation and announcing its own conclusions fairly soon. Until then, the identity of the bones found by Kurin and her volunteers remains an open question.


Update Oct 28: The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office confirmed to me today that the investigation of the remains purported to be those of Jack Cantin is still open.


Update Oct 29: The right way to deal with human remains.

A contact in California has alerted me to an incident, also concerning the finding of human remains, that occurred in May of this year, shortly before Danielle Kurin claims to have found what she alleges are the remains of mudslide victim Jack Cantin.

According to a report in the June 3 edition of the Santa Barbara publication Noozhawk, on May 24, Sheriff's deputies were summoned to Riven Rock Road in Montecito after construction workers found some human remains in a trench they were digging. From the deteriorated state of the bones, investigators quickly suspected they belonged to an earlier Native American, which was later confirmed by a forensic anthropology consultant called into the case. According to the Newzhawk report, the California Native American Heritage Commission was contacted to discuss release of the remains with them, and possible determination of which tribe they may have belonged to.

Notice that the forensic consultant came to his conclusions within a week of those bones being found, whereas Kurin's report on the purported Jack Cantin remains had yet to be submitted to Santa Barbara county authorities five months after they were found and three months after she announced her conclusions to the media. Notice also that the construction workers immediately contacted authorities after the Native American remains were found, as the law requires.

Do the remains found by Danielle Kurin really belong to Jack Cantin? How much of the skeleton was found, a question that has yet to be answered by Kurin or the Sheriff's Office? Could they, too, belong to a Native American who lived in the area many years ago? Presumably, as an anthropologist who has worked on ancient burials in Peru, Kurin has the expertise to know whether or not that is a possibility. But so far very little information has been  released.


Further update Oct 29: Some people have suggested to me privately that Danielle Kurin might have planted the bones she found, or her team found, from the very large collection of bones stored in her lab at the university (Kurin regularly teaches osteology and other anthropology courses.)

Given Kurin’s history, I have always thought that possible, but there is no evidence for it and I am not making any claim of that sort. However, the following chronology, which I partly laid out in the main post above, should be considered. [Please note that this chronology has been corrected as of Oct 30]

—Kurin and her volunteers began looking for Jack Cantin’s remains in February 2020, the same month that I began reporting on her 2016 Title IX for retaliating against students who reported her partner and later husband for sexual harassment (she knew my report was coming some weeks before it was first published.)

—Kurin knew that her department would take up the question of her tenure in January of this year. Indeed, they met on January 29 to discuss it. Soon afterwards, the department recommended against tenure.

—Kurin and I, with the help of a mediator, tried to settle the case over a period of nearly eight weeks in April and May of this year. We seemed to come close to an agreement, but those talks broke down on May 28, as I announced at the time on Twitter. May 28 was the Friday that began Memorial Day weekend.

—Kurin told the news media that the bones were discovered over Memorial Weekend, ie, 29-31 May.

—Kurin withheld telling the Sheriff’s Office and the media that the bones had been found.

—On July 14, Kurin v. Balter was settled with an agreement that I would no longer report about her if she would allow the publication of a smoking gun document which showed my reporting had been right all along.

—On July 22, Kurin and Kim Cantin announced to the media that they had found bones Kurin was “90% certain” belonged to Jack.  The Sheriff found out about it only after seeing media reports, and then made contact with Kurin who supplied them with a one-page summary of her findings.

—Today, more than three months later, the Sheriff/medical examiner/coroner have yet to announce their findings in what continues to be an open investigation.

I think that readers, and local reporters in Santa Barbara and vicinity, might have some questions to ask Kurin, UCSB, and the authorities. But I do hope Kurin is right about her identification. It would give the Cantin family the closure they have sought for nearly four years. I also hope that the Cantin family has not been exploited for an ulterior motive.

Update Oct 30: A very pertinent observation.

I’m pulling up a comment that was posted today because I think it gets to the heart of the problem here. Kurin says she is “90% certain” that the remains her team found were those of Jack Cantin. But that can only have been after she analyzed them over a period of two months, according to her own timeline. What if she is wrong, or had realized during that two months she was wrong about the identification? If so, she would have withheld human remains from authorities for that period of time, as the commenter remarks.

Anonymous said…
“I hope a real forensic anthropologist will chime in to explain exactly why the chain of custody is so important and how it was potentially destroyed, in this instance, by Danielle Kurin deciding she knows better than law enforcement how to handle newly-discovered remains. There’s a whole world of evidence handling that she knows nothing about as she’s not trained in that field.

What if, for example, these remains belong to a homicide victim and Kurin’s treatment of them destroyed critical clues? What of THAT grieving family if such an unthinkable thing actually proved true?

The laws concerning these issues exist for a reason and we can’t just sit back and stay quiet when they are violated so egregiously and with so little concern for protocol.”

Update Nov 1: Did Kurin involve innocent students in a violation of California law?

The article below names four students who worked with Kurin in the recovery of the purported remains of Jack Cantin and appear to be direct witnesses to their unearthing. Many believe that Kurin violated the CA Health and Safety Code by withholding both the bones and news of the discovery from law enforcement authorities for two full months, whether or not they really turn out to be Jack Cantin’s. If so, Kurin may have involved innocent students she was supervising in a crime, even if they did not know it. What reason did she give the students for keeping it secret for so long? Unfortunately, they may end up having to talk to authorities about that, if they have not already.

Post a Comment

76 Comments

S. said…
Aside from the issues under CA state law around informing the Sheriff-Coroner in Santa Barbara of the discovery of human remains, her actions may also violate NAGPRA if the identified remains actually come from a Chumash ancestor. Particularly since it seems that she disturbed and/or held them under the authority of UCSB, presumably on campus, to conduct her analysis.
Michael Balter said…
Yes it has occurred to a number of people that they might be Chumash remains, in which case Kurin should have known that right away. Situations like this lead to a lot of speculation, especially since she spent two months alone with the remains before making a public announcement and now three more months have gone by while she supposedly is preparing her more detailed report. We will know more soon, I suspect.
S. said…
As a local CRM archaeologist, the speculation makes good sense to me given the general location. UCSB might be reaping the reward of their devil's bargain if that turns out to be the case.

And UCSB and Dr. Kurin should pray like hell that SYBCI doesn't start asking tough questions.
Anonymous said…
As someone who has followed this with interest, I’m astounded that the local press has shown so little curiosity in questioning the particulars of this case. By only focusing on the ‘feel-good’ factor, they’ve allowed Kurin to manipulate them for her own positive press.

And I have to seriously question the role UCSB played in all this. From reading your blog post it would seem that the university either has no rules specifying proper protocol in the handling of human remains or did not communicate them to Kurin. Or worse, perhaps, they allowed her flout the law without repercussion. In this, they look worse than amateurish. Once again, they owe the community an explanation.
S. said…
My comments below are based on my personal experience in local archaeology and the opinions are simply speculation.

UCSB has policies around the treatment of human remains that aim to ensure compliance with both California and US law. It is typical that these policies would be communicated to faculty like Dr. Kurin. As noted in the blog post above, UCSB hasn't commented (including on what they knew and when they knew it). I assume that the university was not aware of her involvement.

For Dr. Kurin's part, I assume she was simply not aware of the correct protocols around human remains discoveries in California or in the United States generally. It could also be the case that she was aware of and/or understood the requirements but was under the (mistaken) impression that work on private land, conducted under a private contract, would not be subject to those protocols. The alternative explanations that I can think of are worse and I will not list them.

As you say, UCSB will need to explain all of this to the community. Given a favorable interpretation of events, Dr. Kurin would seem to be a loose cannon (in the original sense of the phrase) at best.
Anonymous said…
Regarding UCSB, from what I understand, they gave Kurin permission to help search for the remains using university equipment.

As regards Kurin’s understanding of the law in this instance, she has collaborated on forensic analysis with local law enforcement in the past, so I would think she is aware of protocol.

I won’t speculate (out loud) about anything improper or illegal, but something, as they say, ain’t right.
Michael Balter said…
It is true that Kurin advertises herself as a forensic anthropologist in the several Web sites she keeps going these days.
Anonymous said…
Most unfortunately, Danielle Kurin now has the PL Walker Bioarchaeology and Biogeochemistry Lab website (http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/kurinlab) under lock and key (that is, password-protected.)
For many in the archaeological community, this goes against academic transparency and open access principles at a public university. According to historical snapshots of Internet Archive/WayBack Machine (https://web.archive.org/web/2019*/http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/kurinlab), the website was accessible to the public from June 2015 till it went dark in Sep. 2019 or slightly thereafter. This is right about the time when Balter started getting reports, and reporting himself, on her grubby (ex-)hubby, who himself was affiliated with the lab. If not a coincidence, then some may argue that Kurin is concealing information from the academic and general public due to personal reasons. Very unethical.

In respect to the discussion above, the last instance the lab website was still accessible, it read-

https://web.archive.org/web/20190318234250/http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/kurinlab/
“Directed by Dr. Danielle Kurin, the Phillip Lee Walker Bioarchaeology and Biogeochemistry Lab is dedicated to the analysis of human remains from archaeological, historic, and forensic contexts primarily in North and South America.”
And-
https://web.archive.org/web/20190120100956/http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/kurinlab/danielle-kurin

“I have also consulted on forensic cases in both the U.S.A. and Peru.”

So there you have it.
Anonymous said…
She’s obviously not afraid to take the law into her own hands. As a reminder, this is the same UCSB professor who-- according to former students-- enlisted them to chase down thieves who stole her belongings. In Peru. In the middle of the night. With machetes. And then bribed the police to beat up the thieves so they’ll return her stuff.
Anonymous said…
Forensic anthropology is qualitatively different from bioarchaeology. Does Kurin have the credentials (not just a Ph.D.) to do this sort of analysis? Anything to do with law enforcement is done with a specific protocol. "Consulting" on a forensic case, that is, answering some questions and possibly taking a look at some human remains while in the presence of an officer is significantly different than actually searching for, excavating, and taking that individual to your own lab for months at a time. Why is that report taking so long, hm?
Anonymous said…
I highly, highly doubt Danielle was simply "unaware" of the protocols. She does not have the credentials needed to do this work. And, the report is probably taking so long because Danielle isn't a forensic anthropologist. She probably realized that she didn't have the experience to work on forensic cases, and assumed a "fast fact" sheet was the extent of the work. Would have saved everyone (especially the Cantins) a lot of grief if she had been honest with everyone about her lack of experience. ABFA board certification exists for a reason!
Michael Balter said…
One important aspect of this story is the almost complete lack of curiosity and enterprise by the local Santa Barbara press, which appears to have asked few or no questions about the circumstances of the finding of these remains. They reported what they were told and that was the end of it. No evidence any followup, even though the Sheriff’s Office said clearly that the investigation was still open. Perhaps that will now change.
Anonymous said…
From The Montecito Journal, on the experimental methods Kurin and her team of undergraduates (again with the undergrads!) employed during the search:

‘[Kurin’s] team...buried pig heads to see how the remains would decay and what could be found in the soil chemistry, a process that could also be utilized on human remains, again limiting the footprint of the search.’

One wonders if that wasn’t so much an educational tool as a coded message to Kurin’s enemies.
Anonymous said…
Kurin not only did not report the discovery of the remains to the proper authorities, she held on to them for two months, until such time as the lawsuit was concluded and Balter committed not to write about her. She then did an end-run around the Sheriff’s department by holding what amounted to a press conference on the local news.

That’s right, the Sheriff’s office, much to their chagrin, did not find out about it until Kurin announced, on the evening news, that she had found Jack, effectively declaring the case closed.

The Sheriff issued this statement, shortly thereafter:

‘Today the Sheriff’s Office received the KEYT news story that indicated that the remains of Jack Cantin, a 17 year-old who has been missing and presumed dead since the devastating 1/9 Debris Flow in 2018, had been found.

Later today the Sheriff / Coroner’s Office received, and is in the process of reviewing, a one-page
“Fast Fact Forensic Report” prepared by a UCSB anthropologist, Dr. Danielle Kurin, that was
referenced in today’s news story. In the “Fast Fact” report she opined that the remains “are
consistent with those of Jack Cantin,” and that she is “over 90% certain that these remains are those
of Jack Cantin.”

Sheriff / Coroner investigators are seeking the full report from Dr. Kurin. Once obtained, it will be
reviewed as part of the ongoing investigation. In the meantime, the case of Jack Cantin’s
disappearance remains open. We will continue to work closely with the Cantin family on this case, as
we have since the day he disappeared.’

The local—and national—press accepted Kurin’s version of events unquestioningly, and a few weeks later, UCSB awarded her tenure.

Five months after their purported recovery, we still don’t know if the remains are really those of Jack Cantin, yet Kurin is online touting it as fact and praising herself for having found Jack Cantin’s body ‘against all odds.’

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a cynical and disgusting ploy by a disgraced individual to rehabilitate her tarnished reputation. Unsurprisingly, probably out of embarrassment and in deference to a community desperate for healing, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s dept appears loathe to discuss the case, and the entire highly-suspicious episode is in danger of being swept under the rug. Without a doubt, up until this moment, Kurin must have smugly believed she would get away with it all.

Shame on UCSB and shame on the press for falling, as usual, into her transparent and manipulative trap.
Anonymous said…
Bioarchaeology is not the same as forensic anthropology. In other words, the ability to identify skeletal remains as human does not make someone a forensic anthropologist. The apparent lack of ethics in this situation is appalling, and confirms my decision to not recommend UCSB to students interested in Bioanthropology.
Anonymous said…
Has anyone stopped to think about the Cantin family while making all of these speculative comments? This tragedy is about their son, and attempts by Kurin, Balter and other commenters to use it for their own ends are shameful
Michael Balter said…
Personally I have given a lot of thought to the family. If they are being exploited, which is possible, then it’s best for the truth to come out sooner rather than later.
Michael Balter said…
Also I reject any false equivalency here. Danielle is the one who has retaliated against students and abused them in her classes. I am the reporter has exposed to her misconduct
Anonymous said…
“ Has anyone stopped to think about the Cantin family while making all of these speculative comments? This tragedy is about their son, and attempts by Kurin, Balter and other commenters to use it for their own ends are shameful”

Hi Debby Sneed (or someone who writes and thinks like her)! Have you ever stopped to think about your own shameful attempts to gain attention and adulation by inserting yourself in metoo cases that have nothing to do with you? And by trying to get Balter’s lawyers to drop him during the Kurin case?
Anonymous said…
‘Has anyone stopped to think about the Cantin family while making all of these speculative comments? This tragedy is about their son, and attempts by Kurin, Balter and other commenters to use it for their own ends are shameful.’

No one wants this to be happening. No one wants Danielle Kurin to turn this tragedy into vile mockery or establish the precedent that the law can be disregarded with impunity.
But here we are, yet again, because of something she did without concern for anybody but herself.

Scolding others for their criticism does nothing but enable these destructive tendencies which have been allowed to flourish for years as the result of too many people deciding to look the other way.
Michael Balter said…
For those in the dark, Debby Sneed is a California-based archaeologist who has developed an unhealthy obsession with me and my #MeToo reporting, and has indeed created sock puppets and false online identities to criticize me, and did, as the commenter said, write to my pro bono law firm during the Kurin v. Balter case and try to influence them against me (did not work). Debby began her campaign when I first wrote about Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, who has now been kicked out of the National Academy of Sciences. I have not seen her praising that decision anywhere. There are just too many enablers about posing as concerned citizens…
Anonymous said…
On the one hand – utilising pigs' carcasses in forensic anthropology has been around since at least the 1980s and 1990s:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0379073899000183?via%3Dihub

On the other – I cannot shake the feeling that D.K. got her inspiration directly from Golding:
https://youtu.be/INE0g4kvXLc

Poor undergrads
Anonymous said…
Has anyone stopped to consider that, five months after the announcement, Jack’s family hasn’t been able to put their son to rest because the case is still open, having been botched by an untrained amateur posing, with the blessing of UCSB, as a forensic specialist? Has anyone stopped to consider that using a young man’s death and his family’s grief for the purpose of self-aggrandizement is repulsive and not something the archaeology community should tolerate? Has anyone stopped to consider that the failure to hold her accountable at key moments of her worst behavior has created a fucking monster who now has to be kept in check by bloggers and scared students on Reddit? Has anyone stopped to consider that the virtue scolds who show up to criticize Balter in these moments never extend the same scrutiny to Dr. Kurin herself? Has anyone stopped to consider why that is?
Anonymous said…
I am not too familiar with PXRF, which Kurin claims she used (along with burying pig heads) to help find Cantin, but I was under the impression PXRF does not detect organic residues? Also, what is up with the line that his body allowed flowers to grow where the surrounding area was toxic? What’s up with the thermal shock? Mudslides are great at preservation; so why can’t they id him?

https://www.montecitojournal.net/2021/08/05/jack-brought-us-all-together-after-42-months-community-finds-its-lost-son/

Re: Possible Debby commenter, your crowd was also abusive to early BethAnn critics who were suspicious about sciencing_bi’s death (Liz Horton, for example, told ASU profs to fuck off and accused them of lying about being profs at ASU)
Anonymous said…
I think a lot about the Cantin family, actually, and I shudder when I think of Kim Cantin discovering who Danielle Kurin really is. She should never have been allowed by UCSB to take a bunch of undergrads into the field, and she should never have been allowed to taint this whole tragic episode with her shady motives and her unprofessional behavior.
Michael Balter said…
One thing I should emphasize, putting on my hat as a journalist and a journalism instructor, is that this is a legitimate news story. The Sheriff's investigation is still open after several months, Kurin is very late with her promised complete report, there are lots of obvious questions about the overlapping timelines of the search for Jack Cantin and the Kurin v. Balter lawsuit, and there is a prima facie case that Kurin violated the law by not reporting the remains immediately (the Health and Safety Code seems very clear on her obligations). We should know more pretty soon.
Regarding the query about the application of PXRF here, I also have questions about the legitimate application of several techniques described in the Montecito Journal article. For example, the pig head experiment seems more likely to be an active learning exercise for the students than an experiment to inform the hypothetical state of remains. (Aren't decomp rates already estimated for human remains in various climate niches?)

There's also a possibility that the journalist who wrote the article misquoted the students or instructor involved. I have been victimized by a local, small town reporter who quite comically misquoted me on basic archaeological techniques. When it comes to science, not all journalists are as diligent and detail-oriented as Michael Balter!
Michael Balter said…
The inadequacies of the local coverage are quite glaring and surprising. The remains were supposedly found during Memorial Day weekend of this year. Who found them? Who was around to see it? What were the exact circumstances? How complete was the skeleton? Was the skull there? If I had been a reporter covering this, these would be among the first questions I would ask. But they are not reflected in any of the coverage I have seen. Even worse, why did it not occur to any reporter to ask Kurin why she waited two months to announce the remains, and even then she did not tell authorities--they had to contact her? It's not the first time that human remains have been found in Montecito, or in Santa Barbara. Very strange situation.
Anonymous said…
I hope a real forensic anthropologist will chime in to explain exactly why the chain of custody is so important and how it was potentially destroyed, in this instance, by Danielle Kurin deciding she knows better than law enforcement how to handle newly-discovered remains. There’s a whole world of evidence handling that she knows nothing about as she’s not trained in that field.

What if, for example, these remains belong to a homicide victim and Kurin’s treatment of them destroyed critical clues? What of THAT grieving family if such an unthinkable thing actually proved true?

The laws concerning these issues exist for a reason and we can’t just sit back and stay quiet when they are violated so egregiously and with so little concern for protocol.
Michael Balter said…
It's worth remembering that Kurin admitted to a federal judge that she was the creator and sole curator of this sock puppet:

https://mbalter.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/camilleoncroton-full-screen-capture.pdf

Nevertheless she was given tenure and allowed to teach students for decades to come. Of course she can still be fired if the university found good cause.
Allegra said…
Hello Michael... after all the heart-stopping bullying and harassment you've undergone one *might* argue that you've lost all perspective on Kurin, but my god, the trail of lies, half-truths, confusion and intimidation she and her family leave behind her (and push in front of her) is absolutely gobsmacking.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ruth Dixon said…
I'm confused about the timeline. This article https://newspress.com/researchers-share-details-on-discovery-of-jack-cantins-remains/ suggests that Kurin started searching in 2020 not 2021? "The researchers spent 18 months ..."
Michael Balter said…
Yes, I believe that is correct. The search began about the same month I began writing about Kurin's’ misconduct, not the month she was being vetted for tenure by her department. My apologies for that error. The rest of the overlap between the events of the lawsuit and the discovery of the remains fits like a hand and glove.
Michael Balter said…
A friend writes:

“I have worked as an archaeological monitor, specifically as a human remains expert, in several counties and even when excavating in known prehistoric areas, with KNOWN burials, if remains are found, the coroner is called IMMEDIATELY. I know because I’ve had to do exactly that with a small skull fragment.”
Anonymous said…
https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-students-join-search-efforts-for-missing-mudslide-victims-in-montecito
"I've worked in war zones and this is more complex than a war zone," Kurin told KSBY.

As someone well familiar with her research history, that’s a big “nope”! With all due respect Andahuaylas is not a “war zone”, nor is any of the other places she’s worked in. Daniela, please stick to the facts and don’t try to make this story more dramatic than it already is.
I noticed inaccuracies in the quotes of Kurin in two of the local press articles on the alleged discovery of the remains. I've provided relevant quotes below. The inaccuracies bug me, because they are being used to construct an emotional story to appeal to survivors' sensibilities. I find such misrepresentation disrespectful to the bereaved.

For context, I have a PhD in Anthropology. I studied paleoethnobotany, specifically patterns in ancient cultivation from a long-term, historical ecology perspective. So, how folks altered soil in landscapes to encourage plant growth. I am also a University of California (UC) Certified Victory Gardener through the University of California Cooperative Extension program, which provides instruction on how to effectively introduce fertilizing agents to soil, and how toxic elements in soil impact plant growth and food quality.

1. Yes, phosphorous in soil encourages most plant growth. Yes, phosphorous derived from bones (and shells) can be a fertilizing agent. However, one cannot simply mix bone and shell into soil to deliver phosphorous. Typically bone and shell must be processed into a "bone meal" through crushing and mixing with other additives. And, the phosphorous is only available to the plant within a window of soil pH values.

In these quotes, Kurin asserts that the identification of the remains is 90% likely. Thus, I assume that the bones are not crushed or severely degraded. It's unlikely that bones resting in situ for three years would effectively fertilize otherwise infertile soil for a patch of flowers.

2. Arsenic can stunt plant growth, but is not known to prevent plant growth. This is actually a major problem, because plants grown for food do absorb arsenic from soil and deliver them to humans via edible parts. (Test your home garden if using any amount of native soils!)

3. Lead at low levels can stunt plant growth. Lead at very high levels can prevent plant growth. If the lead levels in the soil were high enough to prevent plant growth, the lead levels pose a serious danger to humans in the area. If the lead levels in the area are that high, I genuinely hope that the crew were wearing adequate PPE during their investigations. And that the bones are sufficiently designated as a biohazard for anyone who handles them in the future.

4. Rusty iron in soil is incredibly beneficial to plant growth! This alone could account for a superbloom patch on pretty much any landscape.

I googled my initial intuitions to confirm my vague recall of these facts.


https://newspress.com/researchers-share-details-on-discovery-of-jack-cantins-remains/

[When Jack was found, Dr. Kurin said the remains were surrounded by loads of toxic debris, but because of the phosphorus in the decomposed bones, flowers grew in the area where his remains were found.

“Jack was telling us where he was by creating life where there shouldn’t be,” Dr. Kurin said.]


https://www.montecitojournal.net/2021/08/05/jack-brought-us-all-together-after-42-months-community-finds-its-lost-son/

[At the site where Jack’s body was recovered, the surface area was tinged with arsenic, lead, and rusty iron — none of which are conducive to flourishing plant life.

But this particular spot was overtaken by Jack’s soul, manifested in a beautiful set of flowers.

“It was Jack’s remains that allowed them to grow,” Kurin said. “It was the perfect gift for his mother.

“A lasting memory that will allow her to heal.”]
Anonymous said…

https://daniellekurin.co/stories She links here to seven different news “stories” where she is being quoted. Wow. I have been in this business for almost 40 years and I have never, ever, seen another colleague toot own horn so loudly and milk the media so hard from the discovery of a single skeleton, let alone when it is such a delicate case. I can see why people think it was all a big showdown.

Anonymous said…
Following on Lana S. Martin, PhD astute commentary above, I too was disturbed by some of Kurin’s claims and quotes in those articles I read.

“In just 18 months, Kurin and her crew succeeded in their quest, even if the initial communication of good news felt like any other day, with Kurin texting Kim, asking if she wanted an update on the day’s progress.
As Kim cooked one of Lauren’s favorite meals — a dish featuring chicken, artichokes, and chickpeas — she connected with Kurin.
“Kim, we found a bone,” Kim remembers Kurin telling her. “And we think it’s Jack.”
Kim almost didn’t know how to react.
“It was relief. It was almost disbelief,” Kim said. “I had been looking for so long. It almost felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.” [https://www.montecitojournal.net/2021/08/05/jack-brought-us-all-together-after-42-months-community-finds-its-lost-son/]

If the reporting in factual, then Kurin actually told Ms. Cantin she thinks she found her son based on … one bone! It’s completely justified if the grieving parent wants to believe that the search is finally over. But it is categorically negligent for a forensic anthropologist (even if she is one) to propose a positive ID for a missing individual based on a single bone, and before conducting more lab tests on a complete skeleton.

But since this is Danielle Kurin we’re talking about, she is also quoted as having made the following statement:
“Jack was one of two people still missing from the debris flow, the other victim being 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa. Dr. Kurin said that at this point, the researchers believe Lydia’s remains are “one with the earth” and will likely not be found.” [https://newspress.com/researchers-share-details-on-discovery-of-jack-cantins-remains/]

“one with the earth” and will likely not be found.”??????? This is probably the most absurd statement an archaeologist can make, above all when we are talking about human remains that were buried for mere 3-4 years ago. Did she excavate every inch of the mudslide area to be able to make such a claim? Or is she telling the press that if she can’t find Lydia’s remains, no one can.

One way or the other, it’s completely fucked up to rob the Sutthithepa family of hope with such a reckless statement to the press, when she was all too ready to give Ms. Cantin “closure” based on the finding of a single bone.
Anonymous said…
To the poster who said : "Has anyone stopped to think about the Cantin family while making all of these speculative comments? This tragedy is about their son, and attempts by Kurin, Balter and other commenters to use it for their own ends are shameful."

From my perspective, of course, but I imagine everyone else as well. I am following this story as I believe the Cantin family is being exploited by DK to serve her own ends. DK has demonstrated poor judgement, vindictiveness, and a lack of ethics based on agreed upon facts (outside of the Cantin situation ), and I am dismayed that we share the title "anthropologist." As a parent who has dealt with traumatic events related to a child, I am appalled by DK's actions, and fear these actions will compound the grief and trauma of the Cantin family.
Anonymous said…
The below article, published at the time of the announcement, suggests that Kurin handed the remains directly to Kim Cantin:

‘Cambell [undergrad assistant] was there for the discoveries and also when they told Kim and handed her the remains.‘

Is that possible?? How would that have taken place? What did Kurin do, put them into a box or a plastic bag and just give them to Jack’s mother? Were they even examined in a lab, or just handed over, in situ, on the assumption they were Jack’s?

Is this why the sheriff’s department has been scrambling, behind the scenes, to retrieve and identify the remains?

Could this have actually happened?

None of this makes a lick of sense.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-anthropology-students-helped-in-search-for-montecito-teens-remains%3F_amp%3Dtrue

It has been commented upon numerous times that Kurin likes to use undergrads as her assistants because their lack of knowledge makes them uncritical of her methods. Now we see exactly why that is so very problematic. If what is reported here is true, there was no one there to question the propriety of Kurin simply declaring Jack found and then handing the remains to his mother without ever involving the authorities.

It’s outrageous and one has to hope and pray that Kim Cantin wasn’t given false closure by someone cynically seeking to bolster her tarnished image.
Michael Balter said…
The last commenter asks some important questions. If Kurin did hand the remains to Jack's mother, when did she do it? When they were first found last May, or not until July when the announcement was made, or sometime in between? And when and where did Kurin perform the analyses on the bones that led her to be "90% certain" that they were Jack's?

Then, what happened in July when the Sheriff found out through the media that human remains had been found? It's hard to believe that the authorities simply let Kim Cantin keep the remains, as that would make law enforcement complicit with a clear violation of the law--I would assume that they would have to take possession of the bones. Of course, this is Santa Barbara, and some have said to me privately that things are not always done by the book in that city.

At some point officials are going to have to come clean about all these questions, and the chips will fall where they may. Meanwhile local media should be asking these questions, which they did not do before, a real failing in my journalistic opinion.
Anonymous said…
According to the Montecito Journal, DK tested the remains over the course of 45 days. Presumably she presented them to Kim Cantin at the end of that period.

I suppose the local Sheriff was then left with the unpleasant task of asking Kim Cantin to turn over said remains, forced to explain that, despite all she was told, the case was not in fact closed.

And despite DK’s 90% certainty that the remains were those of Jack Cantin, the county coroner has apparently not been able to reach the same conclusion after several months.

This by itself is incredibly distressing and must weigh heavily on the Cantin family who were fed such assurances as to make them believe their excruciating ordeal was finally over.

Yet some have the temerity to suggest that those who are asking difficult questions on this blog are the ones causing pain to the Cantins.

The Cantin family’s hope was exploited and their pain compounded by one person and one person alone, and let’s not pretend otherwise.
Anonymous said…
1. On her website she promotes herself as a “Forensic Scientist”
https://daniellekurin.co/about
2. There are numerous mentions in her online CV for forensic consulting
https://daniellekurin.co/biobib
And the last two entries--
Lead Forensic Scientist
2019 - present Montecito, CA- Debris Flow Human Remains Recovery
2020 - present SB, CA - Toxic Elements in PPE & COVID Therapeutics

So is she, or is she not, a “forensic scientist”? If she is, one would like to see some credentials and certified training for exhuming bodies from disaster zones, other than self-ascribed ones. If not, then her professional negligence runs much farther than the Montecito case.
Lee Rudolph said…
With a bone as recently deposited as Kurin purports the one in her possession to be, would DNA be so degraded that nothing about the bone's origin could be learned that way? (This is a sincere question.)
Michael Balter said…
Thanks Lee for your question, which actually gets at the heart of a lot of the problems with the scenario Kurin has presented us all with. Again, the local media in Santa Barbara seems to have failed to ask some obvious questions.

1. Some media reports indicated that the bones were burned in some way. How extensively? It's hard to even get at this question because nowhere has anyone mentioned how many bones were found. One, two, three, the entire skeleton? Was the skull found, so that dental records could be compared? Mud preserves bodies quite well, usually, as someone pointed out above. If only fragments were found, where is the rest of the body? Why did Kurin not notify authorities immediately so they could begin their own search for the rest of the body if it was not intact?

2. Kurin does not do DNA analysis herself, but did she send the bones out for such analysis, and/or did she take any samples so that DNA analysis could be done? Did she preserve the bones in such a way that they would not be contaminated with human DNA from her or one of the students? Given that Jack's mother and sister are still alive, if any DNA at all could be recovered, no matter what the state of the bones, it would be relatively easy to compare it to Jack's relatives and come up with a likelihood that it really was Jack. If the bones had been given to the medical examiner right away, that office could have done the DNA testing.

3. Where are the bones now? (This was raised above as well.) Does the medical examiner or the coroner have them, or does Kim Cantin have them? If Kim has them, why has the Sheriff allowed her to keep them? This is an open investigation and until authorities positively identify them as Jack (if they do) Kim Cantin is not entitled to possess them, as a matter of law and in the interests of finding out who they belong to. What if they belong to a crime victim or a missing person, as a commenter above suggested was possible?

4. Critical to understanding all of the above is knowing WHY Kurin did not contact authorities immediately as she was legally required to do, and, as a supposed forensic anthropologist, she should/would have KNOWN she was required to do? Why did she wait until one week after she had settled a defamation suit with me, with an agreement that I would not write about her again, before making the public announcement? Did she know that I would raise all of these very obvious questions had I not been prohibited from posing them? (By violating the settlement, Kurin herself has now allowed me to ask them.)

Perhaps there are reasonable answers to all of these questions and we will soon find out what they are. In the meantime, given Kurin's history and the way that the timeline of the lawsuit and the timeline of the Jack Cantin fit together so closely, it is reasonable for me and others to question whether Kurin really found Jack Cantin's remains and whether there are alternative explanations for everything that has happened.

The ball is now in the court of Santa Barbara County authorities, and, I should add, in the court of the news media in the area, which should start asking all of these questions itself.
Michael Balter said…
I neglected to add one important point above.

Five months after the bones were found, and there months after the July announcement, Kurin had produced nothing other than a one page "fact fact" sheet about her findings that she was "90% certain" the bones belonged to Jack. The Sheriff's Office spokesperson, Raquel Zick, told me that one big reason they had not finalized their investigation was that they were waiting for Kurin's more extensive report. And why was that delayed? Because she had sent it out for "peer review" and that process was still not completed.

This problems with this are glaring. Why did it take Kurin so long to write her report? And since it was not an academic paper, why did it need to be "peer reviewed" and who did she send it to for "peer review"? Why could the medical examiner's or coroner's office, which employs and/or contracts expert forensic scientists, not have been involved in the peer review? (The question of why the authorities have allowed the whole case to go down this very irregular way is not answered either.)

As a reporter, I cannot come to any conclusions about what has happened here, because I don't have the facts. Perhaps Kurin really did find the remains of Jack Cantin, even if she went about it in a way that some experts are clearly saying may have violated the law and scientific ethics. On the other hand, I have to consider, as many obviously are, the possibility--the possibility, mind you, I am not stating it as any kind of fact or even as an opinion--that Kurin concocted this entire scenario as part of her desperate effort to get tenure at UCSB.

In making these statements I invoke my First Amendment rights to speak freely as a journalist probing this matter.
Anonymous said…
In case anyone wants to watch video of DK announcing the discovery of Jack’s remains on the local evening news:

https://keyt.com/news/santa-barbara-s-county/2021/07/22/kim-cantin-love-found-jack/
Anonymous said…
I suggest one of the bioarchaeologists who follows this blog volunteers to ‘peer review’ Danielle’s work, since it’s the only thing preventing Jack from being laid to rest.

Anonymous said…
To Anonymous October 31, 2021 at 3:19 PM, thanks for sharing the video link.

Minute 2:03: “Danielle Kurin says because of Lydia Sutthithepa young age at the time and bone composition, she is likely with the earth now”

Yet Kurin was NOT contracted by anyone to search for Lydia’s remains, so why would she even comment on the likelihood that she’ll ever be found? Why crush a family’s hope to locate and bury their young child, without conducting a thorough investigation first? All the more so since forensically and archaeologically, skeletal remains of toddlers were found years, decades, centuries, and even millennia after death. This is not just wrong, this is heartless.

https://oag.ca.gov/missing/person/lydia-sutthithepa
Michael Balter said…
It is odd that after her triumph finding Jack’s remains, Kurin would not now turn to the search for Lydia’s. Of course, she has tenure now so the reward would not be so great.
Anonymous said…
As far as the California Department of Justice is concerned, Jack Cantin is still considered a missing person
https://oag.ca.gov/missing/person/john-michael-cantin
Anonymous said…

“Anonymous said…
I suggest one of the bioarchaeologists who follows this blog volunteers to ‘peer review’ Danielle’s work, since it’s the only thing preventing Jack from being laid to rest.”

I’d be careful with that. We’ve seen plenty of so-called “scholars” lurking around these parts and who are more than willing to lie, cheat and sell their grandmothers just to support the abusers or prove their victims wrong.
Anonymous said…
It seems to me like some things were uttered to the press in the spur of the moment and prematurely, perhaps in an attempt to placate the family, the students, or UCSB. This statement for one:

“Both Cantin and Kurin said the bones had thermal burns, indicating Jack dies instantly from a traumatic electrical or fire injuries”

https://youtu.be/Xc6phZnrK5o?t=75

Depending on their location, thermal burns on the bones can certainly point to the cause of death, but instantaneous death is often extremely hard to prove even in the best of cases and particularly after bones had been in the ground for an extended period of time. I too would be looking forward to Kurin’s report and learn more about what brought her to this and other conclusions.
Anonymous said…
You would also have to show beyond doubt that the thermal burns were not caused postmortem, such as caused by a wildfire or a lightning bolt.
Michael Balter said…
And as someone pointed out above, you would also have to show that the bones were not burned deliberately so that it would be difficult to obtain DNA from them. Is there any indication that Kurin sent bone samples to DNA labs to see if she could get a match with Jack’s living relatives, his mother and sister? If so she has not said that.
Anonymous said…
Maybe someone else already commented on this, but what I don’t get is why announce it to the world as a done deal, and THEN send it to peer-review? Kind of beats the purpose of scientific due diligence, no?
Anonymous said…

Another thing that pisses me off is the nonsense she fills her students’ heads with, which in turn they regurgitated back to the press.

https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-anthropology-students-helped-in-search-for-montecito-teens-remains

The preservation of infants’ skeletons is only partly dependent on size and overall mineral density. More often than not, it is the specific soil chemistry and particular conditions at the time of internment and following that would determine the state of preservation. (even with XRF guns I doubt that the survey team characterized the soil chemistry and all other taphonomic factors throughout the entirety of the affected region. That would take years!)

Case in point, the very recent human burial reported from Panga ya Saidi in Kenya, is of a child about the same age as Lydia Sutthithepa. It is also the oldest known human burial in Africa, dating to 78,000 years ago.
Anonymous said…
She’s been calling herself an expert forensic anthropologist for years:

‘Kurin, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCSB and a specialist in forensic anthropology..’

https://www.news.ucsb.edu/2013/013852/ancient-cranial-surgery

The definition of a forensic anthropologist:

‘...forensic anthropology is the examination of human skeletal remains for law enforcement agencies to help with the recovery of human remains, determine the identity of unidentified human remains, interpret trauma, and estimate time since death.‘

https://fac.utk.edu/what-is-forensic-anthropology-2/

How does a ‘specialist’ like Danielle Kurin utterly fail to follow basic protocol under the law?

And what does her employer UCSB have to say about one of their tenured faculty advertising herself this way?




Anonymous said…
LOL at the ‘UCSB Forensic Anthropology’ signage glued to the students’ hazard vests in the KSBY article photo. That, and the title ‘Forensic Field Assistant’ given to untrained undergrads. Such typical DK bullshit.

UCSB better watch out: they’re being falsely promoted as a center for forensic anthropology, when in fact they are nothing of the sort. What a fucking clown show.

https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-anthropology-students-helped-in-search-for-montecito-teens-remains
Anonymous said…
Per the Montecito Journal article linked by a previous commenter, apparently household items were found around the remains recovered, so it may be that Jack Cantin was recovered. I do hope so for the Cantin family. This does not answer the other pertinent questions asked in this forum:
Were the remains removed without coroner approval?
Why is the missing persons cases still open?
Why has DK's final report not been finished at this point given the apparent recovery of Jack Cantin's remains over Memorial Day weekend?
Why hold a press conference to announce the discovery before notifying the authorities and/or coroner's office?
Does DK have the credentials to call herself a forensic scientist/forensic anthropologist?
Were undergraduate students properly protected from exposure to toxic materials during this search? In the KSBY online article, the students in the picture are not wearing PPE.
Why the statement that Lydia Sutthithepa's remains cannot/will not also be found when only 3 years have passed, and her family lived 150 yards from the Cantin family?


https://www.montecitojournal.net/2021/08/05/jack-brought-us-all-together-after-42-months-community-finds-its-lost-son/

https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-anthropology-students-helped-in-search-for-montecito-teens-remains
Anonymous said…
What would the chances be of DK and her team finding the remains of Jack? Hundreds of people were looking for him and others for weeks (months?). I live in the SB area and remember this being a huge effort. I can't imagine that the small UCSB team would be moving that much dirt. It would be miraculous if they did find Jack, but I am starting to have suspicions...
Anonymous said…
To Anonymous November 4, 2021 at 3:01 AM, according to Kurin herself, there was less than a 10 percent chance of finding Jack Cantin. https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-students-join-search-efforts-for-missing-mudslide-victims-in-montecito She sure is lucky to find him right when she needed a PR win to pressure UCSB into giving her tenure. UCSB and Kurin milked the incident as much as possible. UCSB admin is completely complicit in enabling legally questionable behavior.

Given Kurin’s record of pathological dishonesty, one needs to verify even simple facts like whether she had indeed found artifacts from his bedroom.
Anonymous said…
What is up with the "10 percent chance" and "90 percent sure?" It sounds like she is just trying to quantify a bunch of BS.

I really hope that we get more details about what is going on with this soon.
Anonymous said…
10% chance + 90% sure = 100% fraud
Anonymous said…
ICYMI
https://www.ksby.com/news/local-news/ucsb-students-join-search-efforts-for-missing-mudslide-victims-in-montecito
“The UCSB student researchers are planning more excavation work this year. The team appreciates donations of gardening tools and PPE. To make a donation or give a financial gift, contact the UCSB Anthropology Department.”

This department never ceases to amaze me. They willingly volunteer their students to do the hard work (one which eventually only promote the university), but when it comes to facilitating the search or protecting the students, well obviously the community should pay for it.
Anonymous said…
Michael,

Is there a way to know if this is being actively investigated by the Department of Anthropology, UCSB, or the Sheriff's office? What can concerned citizens do? We want to know if/where the human remains are, and make sure they are not Native American, and that she did not plant them there.

Does the American Association of Physical Anthropologists or the Society for American Archaeology know about the unethical ways the human remains were treated? There may be some repercussions that could have her kicked out of these organizations.

Michael Balter said…
In response to the last comment:

The Sheriff’s office is investigating all aspects of this situation; UCSB is reportedly looking into it although I do not have details about that investigation; and some local press in Santa Barbara is looking into it as well.

Kurin’s CV includes a list of professional organizations she belongs to, which include the AABA (as it is now called) and the SAA.

https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/e72bdcc5-1a02-49b8-9727-1db180d76af9/Kurin_Bio-Bibliography_last%20edit_Sept_15_2020.pdf

Anyone concerned has a perfect right to make complaints or otherwise bring ethical issues to the attention of professional organizations should they wish to do so. (Btw, note that Kurin’s CV is posted on the same server as the NASW Ethics Complaint and the Akshay Sarathi declaration in the Kurin v. Balter lawsuit, both of which include blatantly false allegations.)
Anonymous said…
Img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go is just Go Daddy’s url for documents uploaded to a website. It’s not someone’s secret server. If you google img1.wsimg.com you’ll get literally thousands of documents from all over the web.
Anonymous said…
https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/994b772f-46a8-4cfe-ad29-fac483a63e17/Akshay%20Sarathi%20Declaration.pdf

Yes,it’s go daddy’s (a website and domain name provider) server, but given how many services are out there, having the same service and server is another line of evidence that Kurin put these documents up. Her numerous websites also use this server (look at page source).
Anonymous said…
Anyone who poses on twitter as a cat who eats peoples’ faces is surely qualified to help police solve crimes. Why, this is the first thing they teach you at Forensic Anthro 101 down at Crazy State University.
Anonymous said…
Any updates?
Anonymous said…
I cannot get over how craven legal counsel is in educational institutions. Their go to strategy is to conceal the abuses and side with the employees. They fear the abusers more than the victims and they are very image conscious. Of course, this strategy never works out in the long term. Just look at the Catholic church, the Tyndall and Nassar cases. It will eventually come out, unfortunately after dozens if not hundreds more victims. Either you do the right thing now and pay a little, or cover it up and pass the buck and pay a lot later. Because there is no incentive for legal counsel to face present difficulties, since they won’t get fired even when their universities cough up billion dollar settlements to victims, they will always cover up, stonewall, and pass the buck. I also think that legal counsel in higher ed tends to be in the bottom 25 percent of law school graduates since unis, especially public ones, generally do not pay well. They have no backbone and no long term thinking. I think the Kurin case will see some reckoning soon. And if not sooner, then definitely later. If later, more of UCSB admin will be unmasked as enabling and complicit. They deserve all the professional consequences coming their way.
Anonymous said…
The woman has a history of concocting crazy schemes. No one can forget the unhinged sock puppet accounts featuring what she claimed was an entire movement of people devoted to photographing Balter’s book in dumpsters. And then there was the ‘aftpoc.org’ website which posed as a legitimate non-profit dedicated to stopping cyberbullying, replete with stock images and legalese lifted from a yoga business.

Anyone who thinks she’s not capable of a batshit plot to bamboozle a grieving mother for her own benefit doesn’t know DK.
Anonymous said…
Yes! And all that and more ignored, covered up, or straight up endorsed by the good people at the University of Crazy aS Batshit (aka UCSB). Shame on us.
Michael Balter said…
Thanks to the last several commenters for their thoughts. Yes, based on her behavior towards others and towards me, there is literally nothing that Kurin is not capable of doing, no matter how bizarre.

As for updates: The investigations by the Santa Barbara Sheriff and coroner are ongoing as of yesterday, well into their fifth month. It’s always possible Kurin correctly identified the remains of Jack Cantin, but if so it’s odd that the coroner has taken so long to confirm that. Equally likely could be that Kurin will be charged with violating the California Health and Safety Code concerning the handling of dead human remains, but it’s anyone’s guess right now.