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Forensic Death Scene Investigation Presented by Darrell Thompson Chief Forensic Death Investigator Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s District.

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Presentation on theme: "Forensic Death Scene Investigation Presented by Darrell Thompson Chief Forensic Death Investigator Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s District."— Presentation transcript:

1 Forensic Death Scene Investigation Presented by Darrell Thompson Chief Forensic Death Investigator Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s District

2 DEATH SCENE INVESTIGATION Introduction Death scene investigation is a crucial part of the overall function of the Medical Examiner’s Office. The scene investigation is vital to the final ruling as to the cause and manner of death.

3 INITIAL REVIEW OF THE KNOWN FACTS Interview  The lead police investigator  Witnesses  knowledge of the facts and circumstances prior to and leading up to the death

4 APPROACH TO SCENE  Keeping in mind all that has been learned from preliminary interviews  View the overall scene prior to approaching  Photograph  Distant photograph depicting the entire scene and placement of the body  Each direction of the compass  Photograph the body, documenting any item of interest that may further the death investigation

5 APPROACH TO SCENE  Conduct a detailed inspection of the body and the area immediately surrounding the body Any possible physical/trace evidence Collect and preserve Note overall injuries and injury patterns on the body  Match the details learned from the initial interviews?  If not, why?

6 APPROACH TO SCENE  Is this the death scene Are there large open wounds and a lack of blood at the scene Could this death have occurred at a different location  Observation of rigor and livor mortis Moved or shifted after death  All trace evidence should be left in place on the body  Wrap the body in a clean white sheet

7 POST MORTEM CHANGES  Lividity: Describe in detail  Location  Blanchable  Non-blanchable  Contact pallor  Consistent with current position of the body  Match details learned from preliminary interviews  Color  Mottled/patchy

8 POST MORTEM CHANGES  Rigor: Describe in detail  Location on body  Extent of rigidity/breakable  Consistent with current position  Consistent with details from preliminary interviews

9 POST MORTEM CHANGES Body temperature:  Temperature to the touch  Temperature of extremities  Torso  Dependent areas

10 POST MORTEM CHANGES DETAILS THAT MAY AFFECT POSTMORTEM CHANGES Ambient temperature Disease process (sepsis, seizures) Hyperthermia Hypothermia Drug use Physical exercise

11 INJURIES AND INJURY PATTERNS  All readily visible injuries should be noted and documented  Initial inspection, keep in mind Preliminary interviews Do the injuries correspond to the details as furnished by police investigators and witnesses?  Injuries are inconsistent with the known details Review findings with the police investigator in charge and if necessary Re-interview witnesses, in an attempt to establish a reason for the inconsistency. Note in detail in the investigator’s report unexplained inconsistencies

12 INJURIES AND INJURY PATTERNS  Injuries: Describe injuries  Location  Type Blunt force Laceration Cut Gun shot  Severity  Distinguishing markings

13 INJURIES AND INJURY PATTERNS  Injury patterns: Describe patterns Associated with weapons, objects, details  Blood flow patterns  Note  Photograph Directionality patterns  Injury  Bold spatter

14 INJURIES AND INJURY PATTERNS Document the corresponding  Objects  Weapons  Document details, that may explain the observed patterns  Collect as evidence  Inspect the clothing for impression/marks  Transferred by objects located at the scene  Photograph  Collect

15 MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS  Full description of the vehicles  Damage, severity of damage  Intrusions into the passenger compartment  Vehicle structures  Foreign objects  Mechanical condition  Describe all tire marks at the scene including  Skid/brake  Straight line from application of brakes  Yaw  Curved path faster than the tire can handle  Scrub  Irregular at point of impact/immediately after  Length  Relation to incident

16 MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS  Debris pattern  Impact point  Gouge marks Debris from vehicles  Dust or dirt dislodged at time of impact  Seat belt use, type, and condition  Air bag information/injuries  Attempt to determine the decedents seating position  Dicing injuries  Secondary impact points

17 MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS  Photograph The entire accident scene  Each direction of the compass where possible Close ups of the vehicles and decedent(s) Interior of the vehicles  Secondary impact causing visible injuries to the decedents  Motorcycle information Helmet

18 MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS  Charges which may be filed in connection with the death  Are any drugs or alcohol involved in the death

19 AUTO PEDESTRIAN  Injuries and injury patterns Consistent with damage to vehicles Impact points  Body/vehicle  Injury impression pattern Suspected point on vehicle that may have caused the pattern/injury. (Grill, Emblem, etc)  Secondary impacts Body/head contact with vehicle Body with pavement/fixed object  Consistent with witness statements

20 SHOOTING DEATHS  Location of wounds  Type of wound  Powder marks, stippling  Weapon  Caliber  Ownership  Secondary impact points if the bullet exited the body Directionality consistent with the known details

21 SHOOTING DEATHS:  Ammunition  Remaining rounds in weapon  Rotation of cylinder (revolver)  Live  Spent  Under hammer  Possible blood spatter patterns on weapon  Consistent with physical evidence and known details  GSR swabbing of shooter/witness  Protect decedent’s hands with paper bags

22 STABBING DEATHS  Location of wounds  Defense wounds  Attempt to determine the type of weapon used  Injury patterns  Blood patterns  Blood spatters Location of initial injury versus location of body blood stains in a separate area from the location of the body

23 HANGING  Inspect the knot Type How tied  Running/fixed Point of suspension How affixed  Distance from ground/floor  Evidence of previous suspensions Autoerotic  Position of body  Platform

24 HANGING  Autoerotic Mirror, positioned for self viewing Pornographic material/video Failsafe system Nudity Video camera Lingerie Evidence of previous suspension  Position of body  Contact with floor/ground  Elevated

25 ELECTROCUTION  Source of power  Voltage Voltage of the available electrical source  Ground Fault Interrupter  Equipment Power tools Extension cord

26 ELECTROCUTION  Equipment Assure the power has been turned off Closely inspect it for damaged or exposed wiring Electrical arcing Inspect extension cords  Location  Clothing  Shoes  Moisture  Grounding points for the decedent  Evidence of arcing  Entry/exit wounds

27 FALLS  Reason for the fall Intentional (suicide) Slip (accidental) Pushed (homicide)  Details of fall Point from which the decedent fell Distance to point of impact Vertically from point of elevation

28 FALLS:  Horizontally from point of elevation  Any evidence at point of elevation Scuff marks Signs of struggle Point of impact  Consistent with Accident Suicide Homicide  Does the scene suggest the injuries are not due to a fall?

29 BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA  How injuries may have occurred  Injuries and injury patterns  Consistent with any surrounding objects Object at the scene that may have caused the injuries Evidentiary value

30 DRUG RELATED  Drugs or paraphernalia Location in reference to death scene Possible type of drugs involved Collection and preservation Evidence on the body that may indicate drug use  Injection sites  Indications of inhalation, or huffing

31 DROWNING  Condition of the body Discoloration Bloating Washer woman hands/feet  Are there visible injuries Consistent with details Sustained during submersion, or recovery of body Body impacting objects in moving water Injuries from recovery equipment.  Details of circumstances surrounding the drowning.

32 UNEXPLAINED DEATH  Unexplained death scene Review of the post mortem changes Injury patterns Scene of death  Review the immediate area surrounding the body for anything which may have played a role in the death Weapons Tools Power equipment Electrical lines, boxes Drugs, paraphernalia Possibility of a fall

33 UNEXPLAINED DEATH  The death scene (location where the death occurred) should, in most cases, reveal some details as to what may have caused the death. A close inspection and photography of the scene are vital to a successful inquest.

34 FINALLY  There is only one chance to assure a complete and thorough death scene investigation.

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