E. Paul Catts, an entomology professor known for using insects to help police in homicide investigations, died of a heart attack Friday while playing lacrosse.
Catts, 66, collapsed while playing with members of the Washington State University lacrosse team, which he helped develop since coming to the Pullman campus from the University of Delaware in 1980.
One of only about a dozen forensic entomologists in the nation, Catts was internationally recognized in the field, writing numerous publications, lecturing and working on more than 50 homicide investigations.
Forensic entomology can often tell police how long a body has been in an area, based on the types, numbers and sizes of insects it contains.
In one case, Catts determined a body had been moved since death.
In another case, Catts determined that cocaine had been involved in a death because maggots were growing more quickly in the victim’s nasal passages than elsewhere in the body, said John Brown, a fellow WSU entomologist and longtime friend of Catts. Further tests upheld his conclusion, Brown said.
A book co-authored by Catts, “Entomology and Death: A Procedural Guide,” lays out for investigators the forensic techniques needed to make entomological evidence hold up in court.
“Now that is sort of the manual for police officers to follow nationwide,” Brown said.
Catt also helped write “Insects Did It First,” which describes many of the myths and realities of the insect world, and “Manual of Medical Entomology,” now in its fourth edition.
The former chairman of WSU’s entomology department, Catts tried to promote better understanding of the roles of insects through his “Insects and People” course, which encouraged participants to dine on bugs during a semester-ending “bug luau.”
This year’s luau is still scheduled for April 15, said Brown.
“We’re going to try to use his recipes and pull it off as best we can,” he said.
Although retired, Catts continued to teach at least one course in recent years.
Catts was born April 3, 1930, in Elizabeth, N.J.
He is survived by his wife, Dana Ketner, three sons, a daughter, two sisters, a brother, and three grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for Friday in Pullman. Kimball Funeral Home of Pullman is in charge of the arrangements.