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MarkEsq
03-10-2007, 02:16 AM
I have two questions relating to the death of my main victim.

1. If his body has been kept cold for 24 hours and then allowed to warm up slowly (in a fairly warm lake) is it possible that an inattentive medical examiner could get the time of death wrong by 24 hours? (He didn't know it was on ice).

2. If a man is knocked unconscious and then sealed in an airtight, coffin-like container, would the ME be able to identify the cause of death easily? What would it be?

Thank you!!

ColoradoGuy
03-10-2007, 04:04 AM
I don't know about your first question, but the cause of death for the second would be suffocation, which I expect the ME could figure out.

Sandi LeFaucheur
03-10-2007, 05:25 AM
I have no experience in the field whatsoever, other than from watching Silent Witness! :) But--I imagine an inattentive medical examiner could get a lot more wrong than just the time of death.

Tish Davidson
03-10-2007, 07:39 AM
1. Yes, if it wasn't clear that the body had been cooled and then re-warmed, a casual ME or one who thought he knew what had happened, might be off on time of death. Remember, that if the body is found in a lake and has no water in the lungs, then the ME will know the person did not drown.

If you want to read an interesting book about decomposition of the body, check out Stiff by Mary Roach. I thought it was fascinating. (wonder what that says about me?)

Zoombie
03-10-2007, 07:42 AM
Stiff was very very interesting in a creepy head swap operation kind of way.

And, to the answer of 2, based of my highly advanced degree in watching CSI and the X-files, I do believe that a ME can notice the tell tail signs of asphyxiation. Oh and if they find the body in a airless chamber...I think they'd be able to put two and two together.

Vanatru
03-10-2007, 06:36 PM
I don't have Zoombies CSI/Xfile experience, but I'll take a swing at this. :)


I have two questions relating to the death of my main victim.

1. If his body has been kept cold for 24 hours and then allowed to warm up slowly (in a fairly warm lake) is it possible that an inattentive medical examiner could get the time of death wrong by 24 hours? (He didn't know it was on ice).

The blood will have pooled in the body during the cool down period and stiffenend up. So the ME will have noted that event on the body, even if dumped in the water. Unless you put the body on a giant spit and rotate it so the blood doesn't pool on one side while it's cooling, I guess.

As already mentioned, no water in lungs of worth. No big, if you not trying to make it look like a drowning.

For the ME not to notice, they'd have to be an idjit/drunk/asleep. Quincy wouldn't miss it...........he's da bomb! Whoomp!



2. If a man is knocked unconscious and then sealed in an airtight, coffin-like container, would the ME be able to identify the cause of death easily? What would it be?

Thank you!!

Yes......yes she would. Lack of air as others pointed out. Or death by panic. What a sucky way to go.


Wanna give us more details to go over? Sounds interesting, the questions you've asked.

MarkEsq
03-11-2007, 01:05 AM
Thanks guys, so much.
Ok, here's the scenario:
Killer (K) has planned for some time to murder Victim (V). K is an ice sculptor with a devilish streak (obviously!). What he does is punch the V in the eye hard enough to knock him down and stun him for a moment. Then he quickly plops his body into a pre-made ice coffin. V suffocates. He takes the coffin to the nearby lake and pushes it out into the middle. This happens Friday night.
The body is found Sunday morning, floating. No ice obviously. What I'd like to be able to say also is: no obvious cause of death, and that the night in an ice coffin throws off the ME by 24 hours. (I am partly assisted in this because the cops have assumed, and therefore told the ME, that V was killed Sat night.)
Thoughts? Does knowing what I am trying to do make any difference to anything said so far?
Thanks again!

Petroglyph
03-11-2007, 01:11 AM
Not much to add, but sounds really interesting! I bet a body and an ice coffin is pretty heavy....I like the way your mind works! Haha!

Tish Davidson
03-11-2007, 02:08 AM
Do you think there would be fewer clues if V died of hypothermia rather than suffocated?

Vanatru
03-11-2007, 03:37 AM
Very cool...........now if you did it up north.......when it's winter already, the body may not even be found till the next summer which would really throw off the time of death.

MarkEsq
03-11-2007, 05:27 AM
Yeah, it's a little evil, isn't it?
Hypothermia, eh? I like the idea of someone dying of hypothermia in the middle of a Texas summer. Given that my novel(s) is/are based in Texas I might just steal that idea (if that's ok with you.:))

Tish Davidson
03-11-2007, 08:41 AM
Steal away. It also is something that the ME would definitely not be looking for and might more easily miss. I doubt if he has seen many hypothermia deaths in Texas unless he works around the Big Bend area.

brer
03-11-2007, 09:25 AM
Thanks guys, so much.
Ok, here's the scenario:
Killer (K) has planned for some time to murder Victim (V). K is an ice sculptor with a devilish streak (obviously!). What he does is punch the V in the eye hard enough to knock him down and stun him for a moment. Then he quickly plops his body into a pre-made ice coffin. V suffocates. He takes the coffin to the nearby lake and pushes it out into the middle. This happens Friday night.
The body is found Sunday morning, floating. No ice obviously. What I'd like to be able to say also is: no obvious cause of death, and that the night in an ice coffin throws off the ME by 24 hours. (I am partly assisted in this because the cops have assumed, and therefore told the ME, that V was killed Sat night.)
Thoughts? Does knowing what I am trying to do make any difference to anything said so far?
Thanks again!
1.) If my memory still works, more or less, well ... There was a killer known as The Ice Man. (NY/NE area, if I recall correctly.)

He got that name because one of his victims got found by the authorities "early." He would kill his victims, usually for money, and stick them in a freezer for some time, like months or more. Then he would take the body out of the freezer and dump it in a lake or river or something watery. The authorities "always" estimated wrongly on the time of death. (But then they got the bodies more than a few days after they were dumped, so this anecdote might not be that helpful.)

Well, back to that one victim that got recovered early. The authorities (the coroner) thought the lack of sufficient decomposition as being suspicious. So they investigated a bit more thoroughly ... and eventually figured out it was done by the guy who ended up being known as The Ice Man.

In your case, the internal core temperature of your dead body might still be too low and cause suspicion. But I'm guessing ...
I'd suggest that your bad guy do what The Ice Man did, store the body for a couple of months in the freezer, and then dump the body in water.

2.) In your scenario, I think the body will be on the bottom of the lake on Sunday morning (not floating). Wet clothes tend to drown a person (that's what it was doing to me, when I was a young fella). It takes some time for the gases caused by decomposition to accumulate and cause the body to float.

imo.

KanShu
03-11-2007, 11:54 AM
Couple of things you might want to consider:

If the body freezes, there's going to be damage on the cellular level that any ME worth his/her salt is going to notice. Its like freezing a piece of chicken. When you defrost it, you always end up with a pool of chicken juice; this comes from the ice crystals puncturing the cells and causing them to leak. It'll be pretty evident under a microscope. Heck, most cooks can tell you if a piece of meat has been frozen just by poking at it.

The second thing is that if the victim dies in his coffin, hes going to stiffen in whatever position he was lying in when he died and not the relaxed attitude of someone who drowned. Since the ME is already going to conclude that he died by asphyxiation and not drowning, this might not matter.

Also, if the victim shows signs of hypothermia, then the ME will know that he's been in a cold environment (pretty unusual in a texas summer from what I hear), and will likely compensate for that.

Hope this helps!

MarkEsq
03-11-2007, 04:40 PM
Again I say, you guys are awesome!

To answer a couple of concerns, I don't think he will actually have frozen because he will only have been in his ice coffin a few hours, mostly post-mortem. So I think that means he won't have hypothermic signs.

Good point about his clothes pulling him down under the water, I'll put him in shorts and a T-shirt (and make him fat) so he floats better. :)

Does anyone know how long rigor mortis lasts? Is that condition related to blood pooling or are they different events? I guess I'm wondering whether in this case rigor will have worn off and bobbing about in a lake would undo pooling (to further confuse the issue).

Sandi LeFaucheur
03-12-2007, 12:51 AM
Rigor mortis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigor_mortis This article also mentions something called cold shortening (it's actually talking about meat, but what are we, but meat?)

And here's an article all about time of death, etc. http://www.dundee.ac.uk/forensicmedicine/notes/timedeath.pdf

Nicole_Gestalt
03-12-2007, 05:34 PM
If the victim woke up before he suffocated and struggled he would have small lacerations on his skin from clawing at the coffin - similar to those that would would get from running your fingers over ice repeatidly. Although they would be small enough to not make a huge amount of difference if it was noticed it would give the ME something odd to work on. Also even though they have only been in contact with the ice for a few hours that would still be enough time for the body to become burnt by the ice (similar to frostbite, although not so bad but it would still be noticeble).