Suppression of insect activity due to gunpowder residue on decomposing remains
Marx, Richard B.
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Estimation of time since death is an important variable when investigating legal cases involving decomposing human remains; however it has been sparsely studied in controlled environments. Decomposition rates are largely influenced by external factors with temperature being the most critical factor. The decomposition rates can also be influenced by insect infestation, chemical residues, and burial, yet little research has been conducted to document how various factors alter the rate and process of decomposition. A common occurrence at human remains recovery sites is the deposit of residues from criminal activities such as gunpowder and explosives. This experiment will look at gunpowder residue’s effects on porcine remains and the insect infestation after exposure. This study was conducted in two phases: the 1st experiment being conducted in the late spring and the 2nd in the early fall. For each experiment two carcasses were covered with gunpowder residue while one carcass served as a control (no residue). The physical decomposition processes as well as ambient temperature were documented for each carcass. The results for the study showed variable findings between the control and experimental subjects. The insect infestation of the remains was consistent with the data from previous entomological studies conducted from areas of similar climate and terrain. Factors that may have influenced the results are discussed in reference to the effects of the gunpowder residue on the decomposing remains.