The estimation of time of death since a body is found is very critical in for many reasons; for instance, in finding the killer. Providing reliable estimates of the elapsed time since death is the primary role of medico-legal death time estimation. The period of time that a body has taken since the person has died can be done in many ways. Some key aspects have to be incorporated in a forensic investigation; the body temperature, discoloration, and severity/ brutality of death are worth being determined. The methods of death estimation that are based on the cooling of the body provide different results when compared with other methods; the cooling of the body is a physical process, and the establishment of the corpse temperatures is easily done (Madea and Henßgea 167). Professionals do this more accurately; they look for certain things in carrying out their investigations. Some of the procedures are not quite complex and can be determined by non-professionals; for instance, body stiffness and coloring can be established easily even by untrained persons.
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The duration of time since a person has been dead can be estimated by checking the body temperature. Judgments can also be done by checking the stiffness of the dead body. Police undertake these common tests on arriving at the scene of crime. However, forensic specialists and pathologists can undertake accurate evaluations in the laboratories. In conducting their investigations, these specialists take note of the temperature of the corpse at the crime scene and the environmental temperature at the place crime. They also record the weight of the victim and any other possible variables that are applicable to the formula for the time of death prediction.
Some of the aspects that guide them in their estimations include the body temperature change. In normal circumstances, the body temperature after death records a drop at a rate that is estimated to be 0.8 k after every one hour. This could be affected by other external variables such as the temperature of the surrounding, humidity level, air circulation or ventilation, as well as body fat levels. This means that the drop in the body temperature may be slower or faster depending on the other variables to which the body is suppressed.
The determination of the time of death is the first step in investigating a homicide case. The time may not be too crucial to all homicide cases, but it is important in others related crimes, whether homicide or suicidal cases. Apart from the body temperature, forensic pathologists could use other indicators of the time of death. Most of these other indicators could only be evaluated once an autopsy is carried out. In this case, the accuracy of the investigation would be affected by the cadaver conditions and the body’s state of decay.
At the crime scene, it is easy to estimate roughly the time that the victim died. The body appearance and the surrounding are critical in establishing this factor. Indicative acts could be more accurate. Other professional investigations that involve postmortem body temperatures known as algor mortis can be used. A person could also use rigor mortis to predict accurately the time of death. This refers to the stiffness of the body, and it can be linked with the body temperature to give a time estimate implication. For instance, if the corpse feels warm, but not stiff, it would imply that the person has died for a period of not more than three hours. For a warm and stiff body, the implication is that the person has been dead for a period of between three and eight hours. A stiff cold body is assumed to have been dead for a long time. In this case, it means that the person has been dead for a period that is more than thirty-six hours. Body stiffness is usually a rough estimate, which can be made more accurate by incorporating the temperature of the corpse before analyzing the results.
Other factors that are used by forensic pathologists in examining the time of death of a person may not be major, but could support the results of the key methods used. Such factors include chemical changes within the deceased body, the stomach content, forensic entomology, that is, an investigation on insect activity on the body and any signs of body decomposition or decay.
The first step of any investigation could come from the indicative acts. This implies investigating all the activities that the dead person may have done before he/ she died. Such acts usually give a clue on the last time the deceased lived. For a home crime investigation, things like food conditions, recent newspapers, and many other customary actions or activities like phone usage are closely observed to get a rough estimate of the person’s death. These are purely non-medical evidences.
If the corpse were found in an outdoor environment, a different method would be used as a part of the indicative acts. Such aspects like any kind of struggles and blood cramps could be established for the estimates. Whatever underlies the body is also determined. It would be even easier if the crime had happened in a rainy or snowy weather because the wetness of the ground under the body can be used to estimate the time of the death.
In conclusion, despite the kind of death and the method to apply in determining the death time of the victim, some core aspects that have to be considered include checking the stomach for any signs of digestion, determining the body temperature, and looking for any signs of discoloration. Body discoloration is caused by failure of the heart to pump blood, but instead, the gravitational force pulling it down the body; hence, causing purplish coloring in the lower body parts. It is also good to check on the intensity of rigor mortis and any signs of decay.
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