U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Comparison of Protocols for Measuring and Calculating Postmortem Submersion Intervals for Human Analogs in Fresh Water

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 58 Issue: 2 Dated: March 2013 Pages: 513-517
Michael K. Humphreys, M.S.; Edward Panacek, M.D.; William Green, M.D.; Elizabeth Albers, M.D.
Date Published
March 2013
5 pages
This study compared two experimental protocols for determining postmortem submersion interval (PMSI).
Protocols for determining postmortem submersion interval (PMSI) have long been problematic for forensic investigators due to the wide variety of factors affecting the rate of decomposition of submerged carrion. Likewise, it has been equally problematic for researchers to develop standardized experimental protocols to monitor underwater decomposition without artificially affecting the decomposition rate. This study compares two experimental protocols: (i) underwater in situ evaluation with photographic documentation utilizing the Heaton et al. total aquatic decomposition (TAD) score and (ii) weighing the carrion before and after submersion. Complete forensic necropsies were performed as a control. Perinatal piglets were used as human analogs. The results of this study indicate that in order to objectively measure decomposition over time, the human analog should be examined at depth using the TAD scoring system rather than utilizing a carrion weight evaluation. The acquired TAD score can be used to calculate an approximate PMSI. Abstract published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.