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Sci Justice ; 62(2): 246-261, 2022 03.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-35277239


Post-mortem interval (PMI) information sources may be subject to varying degrees of reliability that could impact the level of confidence associated with PMI estimations in forensic taphonomy research and in the practice of medico-legal death investigation. This study aimed to assess the reliability of PMI information sources in a retrospective comparative analysis of 1813 cases of decomposition from the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner in Pittsburgh, US (n = 1714), and the Crime Scene Investigation department at Southwest Forensics in the UK (n = 99). PMI information sources were subjected to a two-stage evaluation using an adapted version of the 3x5 aspects of the UK police National Intelligence Model (NIM) to determine the confidence level associated with each source. Normal distribution plots were created to show the distribution frequency of the dependent variables (decomposition stage and source evaluation) by the independent variable of PMI. The manner, location, and season of death were recorded to ascertain if these variables influenced the reliability of the PMI. A confidence matrix was then created to assess the overall reliability and provenance of each PMI information source. Reliable PMI sources (including forensic specialists, missing persons reports, and digital evidence) were used across extensive PMI ranges (1 to 2920 days in the US, and 1 to 240 days in the UK) but conferred a low incidence of use with forensic specialists providing a PMI estimation in only 35% of all homicide cases. Medium confidence PMI sources (e.g., last known social contact) accounted for the majority of UK (54%, n = 54) and US (82%, n = 1413) cases and were associated with shorter PMIs and natural causes of death. Low confidence PMI sources represented the lowest frequencies of UK and US cases and exclusively comprised PMI information from scene evidence. In 96% of all cases, only one PMI source was reported, meaning PMI source corroboration was overall very low (4%). This research has important application for studies using police reports of PMI information to validate PMI estimation models, and in the practice of medico-legal death investigation where it is recommended that i) the identified reliable PMI sources are sought ii) untested or unreliable PMI sources are substantiated with corroborating PMI information, iii) all PMI sources are reported with an associated degree of confidence that encapsulates the uncertainty of the originating source.

Cambios Post Mortem , Autopsia , Humanos , Reproducibilidad de los Resultados , Estudios Retrospectivos , Reino Unido
J Forensic Leg Med ; 85: 102292, 2022 Jan.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-34839087


Forensic experts rely on scene and/or autopsy photographs to estimate the post-mortem interval (PMI) when an in-situ assessment of decomposition is unfeasible. The degree of decomposition may vary between the scene and autopsy, which importantly could affect estimations of the unknown PMI in forensic casework. This study aimed to investigate decomposition variability between the scene and autopsy and assess the subsequent effect on the accuracy of PMI estimations. Scene and autopsy photographs from 94 cases with known PMI were used from the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner in Pittsburgh, United States. The total decomposition scoring (TDS) method measured the overall decomposition level, and 28 markers of decomposition were recorded as a percentage of the total body surface area (TBSA). In 60% of cases the TDS had increased at autopsy causing significant overestimations of the autopsy PMI and 86% of decomposition markers varied between the scene and autopsy. Decomposition progressed during mortuary time lags (MTL) of 3-44 h, where bodies were stored in a pre-autopsy refrigerator at 4 °C, suggesting that refrigeration may not always delay decomposition. This research also assisted in validating photographs as a proxy for real-time decomposition assessments. While the autopsy photographs conferred higher quality than the scene photographs, the scene photographs produced more accurate PMI estimations. Forensic experts should exhibit caution when estimating the PMI from autopsy photographs alone, as they may not accurately reflect scene decomposition. To prevent misinterpretation of the PMI estimation, both scene and autopsy photographs should always be requested.

Medicina Legal , Cambios Post Mortem , Autopsia , Biomarcadores , Patologia Forense , Humanos , Morgue
Sci Justice ; 60(6): 512-521, 2020 11.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-33077034


Footwear marks are one of the most frequently encountered evidence types recovered from a crime scene and can provide valuable scene intelligence regarding potential suspects. It has been acknowledged that impressions of footwear and tools can be recovered from graves, but previous studies have only focused on tool mark recovery. This has led to a lack of published information regarding footwear mark recovery from graves. It is therefore important to demonstrate whether the recovery of footwear marks is feasible and, if so, under what conditions this can be achieved. To address recovery, this study, placed 60 three dimensional (3D) impressions of footwear marks within 60 simulated graves. This was done to assess time (1, 2, 4 months) and at known depths (20, 30, 40 cm). The footwear marks within the graves were covered with clothing or left uncovered. The shoe's design patterns were grouped and counted in a photographic comparison between the 3D footwear impressions, placed within the test-pits, and any recovered impressions. A grading system was adapted by the authors to score the quality of footwear impressions observed during recovery. The results demonstrate that the preservation and recovery of footwear impressions from graves is feasible. The simulated graves covered with clothing showed better preservation of footwear impressions, but there was no clear evidence that time or depth had an effect. The authors note that careful consideration and vigilant excavation skills are needed when excavating graves which may bear potential footwear marks, as their recovery will lead to an increased amount of intelligence that can link suspects to homicide scenes.

Fotograbar , Zapatos , Humanos
Forensic Sci Int ; 315: 110419, 2020 Oct.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32784040


This study investigated the effect of seasonal variables on decomposition in the early post-mortem period using 26 donated human cadavers at the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility (ARF), USA. The rate and pattern of decomposition in human cadavers (as measured by TBS and the revised TBSsurf methods) did not vary significantly between all seasons. Summer and autumn cadavers had comparable rates of accelerated decomposition despite significant differences in both ADD and temperature (p<0.05). Spring cadavers had the slowest onset of decomposition characteristics, even compared to the few decomposition characteristics expressed in winter. Seasonal variation in humidity, rather than temperature, may be the overarching driving force for decomposition progression in the early post-mortem period. Both TBS and TBSsurf methods were poor predictors of the PMI (R2=0.4) and significantly over-estimated the PMI across all seasons, although to a lesser extent in spring. This study also demonstrated no relationship between known ADD and TBS/TBSsurf (R2=0.025). TBS and TBSsurf are ADD-based PMI estimation models that cannot be validated under experimental conditions. Accounting for seasonal expression of individual decomposition characteristics is needed for improvement of PMI predictability in forensic practice.

Cambios Post Mortem , Estaciones del Año , Temperatura , Adulto , Anciano , Anciano de 80 o más Años , Cadáver , Femenino , Patologia Forense/métodos , Humanos , Humedad , Modelos Lineales , Masculino , Persona de Mediana Edad , Tennessee