This article reports on a project that developed a new method for reconstructing the region of origin of impact blood spatter patterns that considers fluid dynamics and statistical uncertainties.
Trajectory reconstruction in bloodstain pattern analysis is currently performed by assuming that blood drop trajectories are straight along directions inferred from stain inspection. Recently, several attempts have been made at reconstructing ballistic trajectories backwards, considering the effects of gravity and drag forces. Under the new method, the fluid dynamics relies on defining for each stain a range of physically possible trajectories, based on known physics of how drops deform, both in flight and upon slanted impact. Statistical uncertainties are estimated and propagated along the calculations, and a probabilistic approach is used to determine the region of origin as a volume most compatible with the backward trajectories. A publicly available data set of impact spatter patterns on a vertical wall with various impactor velocities and distances to target was used to test the model and evaluate its robustness, precision, and accuracy. Results show that the proposed method allows reconstruction of bloodletting events with distances between the wall and blood source larger than 1 m. The uncertainty of the method is determined, and its dependency on the distance between the blood source and the wall is characterized. Causes of error and uncertainty are discussed. The proposed method enables the consideration of stains indicating impact velocities that point downwards, which are typically not used for determining the height of the origin. Based on the proposed method, two practical recommendations on crime scene documentation are offered. (publisher abstract modified)