Volume 47, Issue 3 (May 2002)

    Decomposition Chemistry of Human Remains: A New Methodology for Determining the Postmortem Interval

    (Received 16 October 2001; accepted 8 October 2001)

    Published Online: May

    CODEN: JFSOAD

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    Abstract

    This study was conducted to characterize the chemistry associated with the decomposition of human remains with the objective of identifying time-dependent biomarkers of decomposition. The purpose of this work was to develop an accurate and precise method for measuring the postmortem interval (PMI) of human remains. Eighteen subjects were placed within a decay research facility throughout a four-year time period and allowed to decompose naturally. Field autopsies were performed and tissue samples were regularly collected until the tissues decomposed to the point where they were no longer recognizable (encompassing a cumulative degree hour (CDH) range of approximately 1000 (3 weeks)). Analysis of the biomarkers (amino acids, neurotransmitters, and decompositional by-products) in various organs (liver, kidney, heart, brain, muscle) revealed distinct patterns useful for determining the PMI when based on CDHs. Proper use of the methods described herein allow for PMIs so accurate that the estimate is limited by the ability to obtain correct temperature data at a crime scene rather than sample variability.


    Author Information:

    Vass, AA
    Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Sega, G
    Senior Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Synstelien, JA
    Graduate student, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

    Love, JC
    Forensic Anthropology Consultant, Regional Forensic Center, Memphis, TN

    Skeen, JT
    Research Technician, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Caton, J
    Senior Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

    Barshick, S-A
    Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN


    Stock #: JFS15294J

    ISSN: 0022-1198

    DOI: 10.1520/JFS15294J

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    Title Decomposition Chemistry of Human Remains: A New Methodology for Determining the Postmortem Interval
    Symposium , 0000-00-00
    Committee E30