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J Forensic Sci. 1992 Sep;37(5):1236-53.

Time since death determinations of human cadavers using soil solution.

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University of Tennessee, Department of Anthropology, Knoxville.


This study was conducted to collect data on specific volatile fatty acids (produced from soft tissue decomposition) and various anions and cations (liberated from soft tissue and bone), deposited in soil solution underneath decomposing human cadavers as an aid in determining the "time since death." Seven nude subjects (two black males, a white female and four white males) were placed within a decay research facility at various times of the year and allowed to decompose naturally. Data were amassed every three days in the spring and summer, and weekly in the fall and winter. Analyses of the data reveal distinct patterns in the soil solution for volatile fatty acids during soft tissue decomposition and for specific anions and cations once skeletonized, when based on accumulated degree days. Decompositional rates were also obtained, providing valuable information for estimating the "maximum time since death." Melanin concentrations observed in soil solution during this study also yields information directed at discerning racial affinities. Application of these data can significantly enhance "time since death" determinations currently in use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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