Volume 50, Issue 6 (November 2005)
Seven Hundred Seventy Eight Bite Marks: Analysis by Anatomic Location, Victim and Biter Demographics, Type of Crime, and Legal Disposition
A study of the etiology, anatomic location, victim demographics and legal disposition of bite mark cases was made with the purpose of updating and augmenting previous research in the field. The information may be of interest to a myriad of professional disciplines including Forensic Odontologists, Medical Examiners, Detectives, Profilers, Emergency Room Personnel, Coroners, Psychologists, and Family Service Counselors, as bite marks provide both physical and biological data. While bite marks were found on all anatomic regions of the body some sites are significantly more likely to receive bites, and the frequency that an area is bitten may vary with the type of crime. Sex and age of the victim may also impact the resulting location and frequency of bites.
A survey form for bite mark cases was created and mailed to all Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. The survey form was also included in the American Society of Forensic Odontology newsletter. The survey requested that the recipient fill out a separate form for each case for which the recipient was the primary investigator of a patterned injury. The data from the resulting surveys were entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The responses detailed two hundred thirty two (259) bite mark cases that included seven hundred (778) individual bite marks. Harvey (1976) and Sweet and Pretty (2000) published studies finding the highest percentage of bites to the breasts. In 1983 Vale and Noguchi published the paper indicating that the most frequently bitten area was the upper extremities.
The survey forms were sent to approximately 1100 forensic dentist in 26 countries. The forensic experience level of the dentists varied from neophyte to very experienced. The data were analyzed and the results reported and organized in the following categories; Victim Distribution by Gender, Victim Distribution by Age, Child Abuse Distribution by Age and Gender, Sexual Assault Distribution by age and Gender, Homicide Distribution by Age and Gender, Bite Mark Distribution by Gender and Location, Number of Bite Marks per Victim, Bite mark Distribution Comparison to Previous Research, Child Abuse Suspect Age Distribution by Age and Sex, Homicide Suspect Age Distribution by Age and Sex, Sexual Crimes Suspect Age Distribution by Age and Sex, and Bite Mark Incidence by Anatomical Area and Type of Crime.
Fifty-two forensic odontologists from seven countries responded. Nineteen responders were Diplomates of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. The number of cases reported by each responder ranged from one to thirty-three and the average number of cases reported was 4.5. In this broad based study, females were bitten more often than males. The average male victim was younger than the average female victim. Males that were victims tended to be either very young or very old. The youngest victim was a two-month-old boy and the oldest victim a 95-year-old woman. Perpetrators were male more often than female and there was an average of 1.4 suspects per case. The results show that most bites occurred on the arm, followed by the breast. If broken down by gender, males were bitten on the arm more than females, and females were bitten on the breast more often than males. The data show patterns in location and number of bites that seem related to both the type of crime and the age of the victim.