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    Forensic investigation procedures on skeletal remains

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    Background Information
    Listed below are the details outlining a crime scene that occurred over a period of time. You are to investigate and evaluate the crime and be prepared to present your information in a court in the form of a written document. You will have to use entomology, odontology, anthropology, pathology, and microbiology techniques to complete your investigation.

    Carl and Joseph were in the woods of Georgia in early fall. They had set up a camp because they were both deer hunters. In the fall of years when the weather is cooler, deer are very prevalent. On this cool November morning, the men were walking through the woods in their quest for deer. On the second day of being in the woods, walking through what was really thick brush and uneven terrain, one of the men slipped and fell into what appeared to be a covering of a hole in the ground. As he began to try and pull himself out, he saw several skulls and bones lying around. He immediately screamed for his friend, who assisted him in getting out of the hole. Together, they looked in and saw skeletons and what appeared to be a decomposing body.

    The two men called the local police. The police arrived, secured the area, and called for the forensic team to come and investigate. You are the forensic person that has been asked to identify the 5 skeletons in the grave and the body that was only partially decomposed.

    Address the following:
    Why will this particular case require the use of forensic biology? Explain in detail.
    When you arrive on the scene, what is your first course of action? Describe your process, and be specific.
    How will you avoid contamination at this stage of the investigation? Explain.
    How will you control the other first responders or law enforcement officers? What challenges do they pose to a forensic investigator? Explain.
    What will you do to identify the remains at this crime scene? Explain.
    What is the documentation process for collecting and preserving this type of evidence? Explain.
    How will you transport your evidence to the lab safely? Explain.
    Once you arrive back at the lab, what significant risks of contamination exist? Explain.
    How will you avoid this contamination? Explain.
    What is the process for DNA analysis on the decomposing body?
    What specific tests will you use? Explain.
    How will serology play a role in the selected testing processes? Explain.
    Using this decomposing body as an example, what is the process that you will follow to properly conduct this DNA test?
    What challenges or barriers exist when you begin to interpret the results of your DNA test? Explain in detail.
    How large of a role will facial reconstruction play in this investigation? Explain.
    Next, provide 2 scenarios of court case outcomes regarding this investigation.
    One scenario must result in the successful identification and conviction of the perpetrator. You will need to fill in the blanks with regard to physical evidence and other necessary details.
    The other scenario must result in a wrongful conviction. You will need to identify the elements that lead to this wrongful conviction.
    Be sure to reference all sources using APA style.

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    Solution Preview

    I have explained the forensic case presented here in details. Please go through the material and the list of references. You can bring out the necessary portions and write your own answer once you understand the concepts explained here.

    Skeletal remains or decomposed body discovered which were buried for a prolonged time are handled by a special group of people appointed by the police known as forensic anthropologists who work in along with forensic pathologists. This opens the portal of scientific truth that enables the justice system to discover the facts and circumstances surrounding criminal acts.
    Both in the field and in the laboratory these forensic anthropologists act as a key player and they are trained in anthropology, archaeology, human osteology, and chain-of-evidence procedures.
    The following types of deaths need the attention of forensic experts:
    a) Partially decomposed bodies or skeletal remains of multiple individuals.
    b) Violent deaths apparently homicidal, suicidal or accidental.
    c) Death caused suddenly which is not die to any disease.
    d) Deaths under suspicious circumstances
    e) Death due to disease developed at work place
    f) Death due a disease, which is considered a public threat.
    Antemortem refers to data collected or data kept in police records about a person as soon the person is reported missing or presumed dead. Data for instance hair color, dental record, sex, age, tattoos in the body. Antemortem data also includes information like the type of clothes the person was wearing just before he/she got missing or the type of things the person might be carrying. Once collected, the data can be compared to similar information obtained from unidentified dead bodies in an attempt to find a match. Whether a single individual is missing or whether multiple fatalities are involved, antemortem records are an essential component of the identification process. Investigators in the above mentioned case can cross refer to look for any antemortem data available for these skeletal remains and the decomposed body found at this forest location.
    The forensic investigator is introduced by an officer at the crime scene, the forest location in this case, this officer is the first responder. To enter a possible homicide site beyond the yellow tape the forensic investigator needs to sign in his/her contact information. The first responder (the detective) will escort and brief about the crime scene and the forensic investigator is not supposed to touch or move anything unless and until the briefing process in done. The forensic investigator keeps attention at the highlighted areas which has been flagged by the first officer-in-charge. The investigator also has to wear gloves and covered shoes to minimize any contamination. Before removing anything, the investigator should ask if it has been photographed and documented. The detective will do a walk-through and explain the case and areas of importance. The forensic investigator should not document anything or photograph anything unless the initial briefing process is complete. At this point the investigator should start planning how to approach the body, the types of things he/she needs to preserve and work accordingly to be prepared to have answers to questions, which the police may have. The investigator should consider the amount of time and when he or she needs to call for body removal service. Once the body has been put into the body bag the investigator should be done with all the preliminary observation and data collection since there can always be a second location nearby where the investigator might be needed. He or she should begin to fill out the paperwork demographics with the information that is known. In addition, he or she should gather the materials needed to examine the body, including being prepared to protect the hands with brown paper bags, photograph the body, put on the identification band for the body, and have a plan for placement of the body into a body bag. The bad of the body needs to be sealed by the police officer in presence of the forensic investigator. This is a necessary step as it ensures that the bag has not been breached prior to it being opened by morgue personnel.

    The first thing a forensic investigator at a crime gravesite should do is to estimate the dimension (length, width and depth) of it. The total area the bodies are spread provides valuable information to investigators about the possible number of suspects involved in the crime. Evidences like bullets, personal stuffs, jewelry in and around the gravesite should be examined. In some cases, especially those of mass graves, heavy equipment (backhoe) may be used initially to remove the topsoil, with a monitor to watch carefully for evidence or remains exposed by the machinery. Soil removal may then be probed by careful use of picks and shovel and finally, with trowels and brushes.
    Unburied bodies should be removed as soon as possible since unburied bodies are totally exposed to the climate and to animals and the hence the rate of decomposition is much faster than buried bodies where the process of burying itself slows down the decomposition rate. Buried bodies are not accessible to animals only microorganisms can feed on them. Also there is difference between a single and multiple buried bodies. Multiple buried bodies since they are tightly packed are less exposed to air and hence the decomposition process is slow compared to single buried bodies. So multiple buried bodies are well preserved compared to the single ones.
    The potential for animals to destroy or scatter body parts increases with time. The number of bones missing directly correlates to the time elapsed since death. The prospect of positive identification as decreases longer the body is exposed to the environment. Forensic investigators should be prepared for the following when handling unburied bodies:
    • Temperature and microbes causing extreme decomposition.
    • Exposed bodies can be covered by leaf which increases with the length of time and decayed leaves might get settled inside the bones.
    • Small bones and teeth might sink deep into the soil due to rain.
    • Profuse scattering of defleshed bones by wild animals, birds or gravity if remains are located on a slope.
    Clothing plays a very important role at the rate of decomposition. Usually bodies with light clothing decompose faster whereas heavy clothing protects against decomposition. The course of decomposition lasts until only hard tissues such as teeth and bones are left. Hair may continue to adhere to the skull. After approximately one year, most bones may be strewn around and the likelihood of recovery is minimal.

    DNA is easily degraded/denatured when exposed directly to sunlight & also warm conditions are also not ideal for storing DNA (e.g. Trunk of a car MAY NOT be proper place to transport DNA containing samples). The investigator in charge needs to keep these facts in mind before transporting DNA containing samples. To best preserve DNA evidence, store in a cold environment. If on the other hand samples which have been properly stored in dry and frozen conditions are even good for several years. In fact DNA extracted from blood or semen which have been stored using proper protocol has given successful polymerase chain reaction even after 20 years. Mitochondrial DNA analysis has been performed on very old bones, teeth, and hair samples.
    Some offices have investigators do their own transport. Other offices have employees in a separate unit do the transport, or in combination with the investigator as an assistant. Other options include local transport services under contract that typically also transport for funeral homes.

    Upon discovery of the body at the gravesite strict protocol is maintained on how the remains are handled and collected. A complete map is constructed as to where the bodies where found and which bodies where placed next to each other. Everything is photographed, collected and sealed as evidence as anything can be used in the court. From this point onwards ...

    Solution Summary

    The material above explains in details the various procedures and protocols followed by forensic anthropologists,pathologists, entomologists, facial reconstruction artists & the police to identify individuals whose skeletal remains or decomposed bodies have been recovered from gravesite.