The identification of blunt force trauma in thermally altered remains using reconstruction and computed tomography
MetadataShow full item record
Various traumatic events such as automobile accidents, structure fires, or terrorist attacks result in traumatic and thermal injury. Fire is a destructive force that can alter or destroy evidence, and thermal alterations have negative effects on forensic and anthropological recovery and analysis. Blunt force trauma is particularly difficult to analyze because of the multiple ways in which this trauma appears on a body and the variety of objects that can impact and fracture a bone or the variety of ways a body can impact a blunt surface. As fire is a common way to cover up a crime and blunt force trauma is used as a means to kill or injure an individual, it is necessary to understand the differences between these two types of fractures that can present together on bone. The present study was performed to determine the amount of survivability of traumatic fracture patterns in remains that have been exposed to a burning event. The sample used for this investigation was composed of twenty limbs (forty long bones) from five full-grown, domestic, female sheep (Ovis aries) obtained from a farm in Connecticut. Thirty specimens were traumatized with the head of an Estwing ball peen hammer and ten were left as controls. After specimens were subjected to blunt force trauma, each was radiographed using Computed Tomography. They were then placed in a small structure, 8' x 8', that was constructed to simulate the conditions of a house fire. Each post-burn bone was analyzed based on a number of characteristics. A trauma score of "1" no trauma, "2" ambiguous, and "3" traumatic fractures were given based on these observations. CT scans were examined after bone samples had been analyzed. Again, each specimen's CT scan was given a trauma score ("1" no trauma, "2" ambiguous, and "3" traumatic fractures). Results from the bone analysis on the 30 traumatized and burned specimens revealed that 15 did not have trauma, 2 were ambiguous (i.e., they may have trauma but traumatic characteristics were not distinct), and 13 presented with distinguishable traumatic injury. Comminuted was the most prominent type of fracture, and the next most common fracture was oblique. The majority of traumatic injury was found on the middle portion of the bone. CT examination showed that 12 specimens had suffered traumatic injury. The two analyses were compared and showed an agreement of 83.3% between the trauma scores. Results show that differentiation of traumatic and thermally induced fractures is possible using various fracture characteristics as well as taphonomic indicators to determine the sequence of events.