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Time of Death

Method for determining

Rigor Mortis
 “death stiffness”
 results in the shortening of muscle tissue and the stiffening of
body parts in the position at death (occurs within the first 24
hrs. and disappears within 36 hrs.).
 Starts in the head and works its way down to the legs.
 At 12 hours the body is most rigid.
 Skeletal muscles cannot relax.
 When you are alive, muscles release Calcium to contract. This
Calcium is removed from the cells, which requires energy. In
death, there is no energy, thus Calcium is not removed and the
muscles remain contracted.
 After 12 hours, the muscle cells begin to dissolve by autolysis
Factors that affect rate of rigor
 Environmental temperature – cooler, slower
 A person’s weight – Body fat stores extra oxygen (therefore
more energy is available after death)
 Type of clothing – Clothing keeps the body warm
 Illness – fever vs. hypothermia
 Level of activity before death – high activity, faster
 Sun exposure – Direct sunlight, warmer, faster
Livor Mortis
 “Death Color”
 results in the settling of blood in areas of the body closest to
the ground (begins within 2 hours after death and continues
up to 12 hrs.).
 Red Blood cells break down, spilling out hemoglobin. This
turns purple, outside of the cell. This is visible where the
blood pools.
 “Lividity” – pooling of the blood. Discoloration is permanent
after 8 hours.
 Environmental factors affect the rate
 Pooling of blood
 Can provide time of death
 Can reveal the position of a corpse during the first 8 hours
 Face down?
 On back?
 Standing?

 Reveal if the body has been moved

Algor Mortis
 “Death Heat”
 results in the loss of heat by a body (a general rule, beginning
about an hour after death, the body loses heat by 1 to 1 1/2
degrees Fahrenheit per hour until the body reaches the
environmental temperature).
Predictable Pattern of Decay
• Body is intact, decay inside body
• Lasts until body becomes bloated
Fresh • Blow flies (Calliphoridae) and Fresh flies (Sarcophagidae
are among first to arrive
• Body becomes visibly inflated due to the production of
gases from bacteria that begin to putrefy the body
Bloated • House flies (Muscidae) now join other flies

• Skin breaks and body deflates

• Smells BAD
Decay • Most maggots have finished development
Pictures of Process


Butyric Fermentation

All the remaining flesh is removed over this

period and the body dries out.

It has a cheesy smell, caused by butyric

acid, and this smell attracts a new suite of
corpse organisms.
Insect activity
The reduction in soft food makes the body
less palatable to the mouth-hooks of
maggots, and more suitable for the
chewing mouthparts of beetles.
Newton’s Law of Cooling
 Newton’s Law of Cooling describes the cooling of a warmer
object to the cooler temperature of the Environment
 T(t)=Te+(To-Te)e-kt
 To is initial temperature of object (98.6 degrees F)
 Te is constant temperature of environment
 T(t) is the temperature of the object at any time t (from
 k is a constant
Graph of Newton’s Law of Cooling
 Forensic Anthropology is concerned primarily with the
identification and examination of human skeletal remains.
 Radiologic dating uses carbon dating techniques to determine
approximate age of bones
Carbon Dating
 Carbon-14 is an isotope of carbon
 Isotopes have the same number of protons,
different numbers of neutrons
 Carbon-14 dating can be used to find the ages of
once-living things because all organism absorb
Carbon-14 when they are alive
 Once an organism dies, its body begins to lose
Carbon-14 at a fixed rate.
 Scientists can measure the amount of Carbon 14
remaining in a skeleton to determine the date the
person died.
Half -life -- the amount of time for 1/2 of the
sample to decay
 Forensic Entomology is the study of insects and
their relation to a criminal investigation,
commonly used to estimate the time of death.
Of Maggots and Murder
 Flies are among first to colonize carcass
 Usually arrive within 10 minutes
 As carcass decays, conditions change
 Drier
 Temperature drops
 Tissues break down
Order of Insect Appearance
 Blowflies
 Other flies
 Tiny Wasps (lay eggs on maggots)…live as parasites in
 Beetles and Mites (when body is drier)
Blowfly Development
 Egg (8 hours)
 Larva 1 (aka “instar 1”) Changes in size, color,
mobility and external
 Larva 2 (aka “instar 2”) physical changes
enable a scientist to
 Larva 3 (aka “instar” 3)
determine when the
 Pre-pupa blowflies arrived at the
 Early and late pupa
 Adult
Orifices and Openings
 When flies arrive, search out natural orifices (mouth, ears,
 If larvae are found in other places (like chest cavity), this
indicates possible stab wounds or openings in that region
Additional Factors
 Drugs present at the time of death can affect developmental
rate of the maggots
 Cocaine speeds up development
 Arsenic slows development
 Insects feed on toxins (removing them from body) making it
difficult to test for them
Stomach Contents
 The composition of a victim’s last meal can often provide
details concerning TOD.
 Used for additional sources of information as well.
 Prominent case study includes Nicole Brown Simpson
Presence of Macromolecules can
be detected
 Lipids
 Proteins
 Simple carbohydrates
 Complex carbohydrates
 Function as long-term energy storage
 Important component of the cell membrane
 Consist of glycerol and fatty acid “tails”
 “Tails” are long chains of carbon and hydrogen and contribute
to the non-polar behavior of fats
 Sudan Red is a fat-soluble dye that stains lipids red. Using
Sudan red can show the amount and location of lipids
Both test tubes contain lipids
 Complex specialized molecules composed of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen,
nitrogen, and sometimes sulfer
 Proteins have many important roles in organisms.
 Structural proteins such as collagen or elastin provide support
 Regulatory proteins such as enzymes control cell processes
 Buiret solution is a blue liquid that changes to purple in the presence of
short chains of polypeptides
 The copper atom of the biuret solution reacts with the peptide bonds to
cause the color change.
The purple one contains protein
Monosaccharides and Disaccharides
 Monosaccharides are simple sugars such as glucose and
fructose that function as energy source in cells during
cellular respiration
 Disaccharides are composed of two monosaccharides
 Sucrose (table sugar) is an
example of a disaccharide
Other Carbohydrates -- starch
 Lugol’s solution -- an iodine solution used to
detect starch
 A dark blue color indicates starch
 Large number of simple sugar molecules
joined by glyosidic bonds
 Produced by all plants
 Consumed by humans
Lipid Test:
Protein Test
Glucose Test
Starch Test