Death Scene Investigations: A Field Guide

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Each and every death scene presents new challenges to even the most seasoned investigator. Despite the unique nature of each scenario, using a standardized protocol is the key to ensuring consistent and accurate results. Death Scene Investigation: A Field Guide provides concise direction for the death scene investigator, crime scene investigator, coroner, medical examiner, or anyone associated with the investigation of death.

Since the majority of deaths are due to natural causes, the book emphasizes these situations, yet also examines unnatural circumstances. It begins by providing a general overview of death investigation before delving into a chronological point-by-point analysis of the death scene. Topics discussed include how to assess the body at the scene, and how to investigate natural and unnatural deaths.

Explores Various Causes

Next, the text demonstrates how death manifests in various parts of the body. A section on traumatic injuries examines and demonstrates with color photographs blunt force, sharp force, and a host of other injuries that the death examiner is likely to confront.

The book addresses identification methods and explores how to determine signs of resuscitation and previous surgeries. It concludes with a discussion of the purpose and performance of the autopsy and provides a survey of the different forensic experts that may become useful to the death investigator.

Enhanced by numerous color photos, this volume is a direct, succinct handbook that is invaluable to those that confront the reality of death on a day-to-day basis. Its convenient format makes it the perfect guide to take along to the scene.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420086768
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 11/18/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 237
  • Sales rank: 824,351
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Guidelines for the Death Scene Investigator

Purpose of the Death Investigation

Role of the Death Scene Investigator (DSI)

Philosophy of Death Investigation

Notification of a Death

Discovery of Deceased

The Body and the Scene

Statutory Responsibilities

Confirm or Validate the Death

Securing the Death Scene

Evidence at the Death Scene

Documentation of the Scene and the Body

Documentation by Diagrams

Forming Preliminary Opinions: Be Suspicious but Objective

Examination of the Body at the Scene

Pathologist’s Role at the Scene

Other Forensic Experts at the Scene

Assessment of the Body at the Scene

Position of the Body at the Scene

Blood at the Scene

Vomitus at the Scene

Physical Examination of the Body at the Scene

Starting the Scene Assessment of the Body and Time of Death

Determining Time of Death by Scene Investigation


Other Decompositional Changes

Detailed Physical Assessment of the Body at the Scene


Common External Signs of Disease or Trauma




The Medical History and Medical Records

Obtaining a Medical History at the Scene

Searching the Scene

Obtaining Medical Records or Information by Phone

Reviewing Medical Records

Natural Diseases and Death Investigation


Sudden Death

Cardiac System

Respiratory System

Gastrointestinal Tract and Pancreas


Vascular System

Central Nervous System (CNS ) Disorders

Systemic Diseases

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) / Acquired Immune

Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Traumatic Injuries

Blunt Force Injuries versus Sharp Force Injuries

Blunt Force Injuries

Sharp Force Injuries

Description of Wounds




Fire Deaths and Thermal Injuries



Motor Vehicle Occupant Injuries

Pedestrian Injuries

Investigation of Childhood Fatalities and Child Abuse

Battered Child Syndrome

Shaken (Infant) Impact Syndrome

Neglect, a Crime of Omission

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Identification Methods

Collection of Evidence at the Scene

Visual Identification

Other Visual Methods of Identification

"Softer" Forms of Identification

Scientific Forms of Identification

Crime Scene Evidence Collection

Signs of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Treatment

Key to Figure

Signs of Previous Surgeries and Procedures

Key to Figure

The Medical-Legal Autopsy

Purpose of the Autopsy

Misconceptions of the Autopsy

Jurisdiction and Permission for Autopsies

Death Investigations Requiring an Autopsy

The Autopsy: Assembling a Puzzle

External Examination of the Body

External Examination

Internal Examination

Forensic Experts


Accident Reconstructionist

Forensic Anthropologist

Forensic Botanist

Forensic Geologist

Crime Scene Technician

Criminalist and Criminalistics

Forensic Engineer

Forensic Entomologist

Forensic Pathologist

Forensic Odontologist (Dentist)

Forensic Radiologist

Questioned Documents Examiner




Appendix A: Medical Terminology

Appendix B: Prescription Medicines

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