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Estimating Time of Death

The first question to be asked and probably hardest question to answer is "how long has it been dead?" Bones do not decay as skin and soft tissue do, but they are subject to weathering and scatter (toponomy).
There are three main factors which can be used to estimate the time of death:

  • Body temperature
  • Rigor mortis
  • Lividity
Body temperature
following death, the body begins to cool at a rate which depends on a range of factors. A naked body will cool quicker than a clothed one; a body in a prone spread-eagled location will cool faster than a body in the corner; a body out in the open will cool faster than one in a secluded area.

Rigor mortis
the term 'stiff' is often used to refer to a dead body as a result of the stiffness that. This condition is known as rigor mortis which happens due of the failure of enzymatic processes and the increase of wastes in the body. Rigor mortis develops during the first 12 to 24 hours, but then decreases again until 36 to 48 hours afterward because decomposition kicks in.

lividity or 'liver mortis' is a term used to describe the draining of the blood to lower portions of the body due to the sway of gravity. The body develops a patchy discoloration within 1-2 hours of death and the process is complete within 6 to 12 hours.

source: Ed Friedlander, viewed 2 October, 2009, <http://www.pathguy.com/TimeDead.htm>
Kilvington Girl's Grammar,viewed 2 October, 2009, <http://www.kilvington.vic.edu.au/cyber/forensic/estimating%20time%20of%20death.htm>