Volume 50, Issue 3 (May 2005)
Using Accumulated Degree-Days to Estimate the Postmortem Interval from Decomposed Human Remains
Forensic anthropologists often rely on the state of decomposition to estimate the postmortem interval (PMI) in a human remains case. The state of decomposition can provide much information about the PMI, especially when decomposition is treated as a semi-continuous variable and used in conjunction with accumulated-degree-days (ADD). This preliminary study demonstrates a supplemental method of determining the PMI based on scoring decomposition using a point-based system and taking into account temperatures in which the remains were exposed. This project was designed to examine the ways that forensic anthropologists could improve their PMI estimates based on decomposition by using a more quantitative approach. A total of 68 human remains cases with a known date of death were scored for decomposition and a regression equation was calculated to predict ADD from decomposition score. ADD accounts for approximately 80% of the variation in decomposition. This study indicates that decomposition is best modeled as dependent on accumulated temperature, not just time.