Volume 36, Issue 5 (September 1991)
An Experimental Field Protocol for Investigating the Postmortem Interval Using Multidisciplinary Indicators
This article proposes an experimental field protocol for investigating the postmortem interval using specially designed apparatus and human and pig cadavers. We further propose that this goal can only be achieved by a multidisciplinary group, comprised of forensic entomologists, pathologists, and anthropologists. The apparatus and collecting methods described by the authors establish the means by which data can be collected on several fronts simultaneously: the sequential arrival and variety of insects in the decay process, the character and manner of soft tissue decomposition, the sequence and nature of bone exposure and order of disarticulation of skeletal remains, and the influence of climate and season on decay rates and anthropod succession. A central feature of this protocol involves the construction and use of a dual-functioning insect trap that allows separate but simultaneous capture of arriving and emerging populations while successional and decompositional processes of the cadaver are left intact. Results of trap performance tests in an arid climate and preliminary arthropod data collected from field-exposed pig carcasses are presented. The use of this protocol could provide important and badly needed baseline data for both medical investigators and law enforcement personnel, information that is critical to understanding the causes, manner, and time of death, which the law requires to be ascertained.