Volume 42, Issue 2 (March 1997)
Diethyl Ether, a Chemical Asphyxiant Used as a Prelude to Homicide: A Report of Three Cases
Homicides in which the victims are first subdued with a chemical asphyxiant are unusual and quite rare. We report three cases in which victims were first overcome by ether containing compounds and then killed by other means of asphyxiation. The ether containing compounds used in these three cases were readily available commercial products. In two cases, the distinctive spectra of the volatile compounds in the decedents' blood, from the gas chromatograph and from the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, were compared with suspect ether containing products recovered during the scene investigations. In one case, an identical match was obtained. In the other case, the chromatographic spectra differed slightly from the compounds found at the scene, but the difference was explainable by metabolic breakdown of the compounds in vivo.