Decomposition involves two processes: autolysis and putrefaction. Autolysis is the breakdown of cells and organs from an aseptic chemical process caused by intracellular enzymes. Since it is a chemical process, it is accelerated by heat, slowed by cold, and stopped by freezing or the inactivation of enzymes by heat. Organs rich in enzymes will undergo autolysis faster than organs with lesser amounts of enzyme. Thus, the pancreas autolyzes before the heart.

The second form of decomposition, which to most individuals is synonymous with decomposition, is putrefaction. This is due to bacteria and fermentation. After death, the bacterial flora of the gastrointestinal tract invades the vascular system, spreading through­ out the body, producing putrefaction. This is accelerated in septic individuals because bacteria have already spread throughout the body prior to death.

When we talk about decomposition, we usually mean putrefaction. The onset of putrefaction depends on two main factors: the environ­ment and the body. In hot climates, the most important of these two factors is environment. Most authorities would give the following sequence of events in decomposition of bodies. First there is greenish discoloration of the lower quadrants of the abdomen, the right more than the left, usually in the first 24-36 h. This is followed by greenish discoloration of the head, neck, and shoulders swelling of the face due to bacterial gas formation and "marbling." Marbling is produced by hemolysis of blood in vessels with reaction of hemoglobin and hydro­gen sulfide and development of greenish black coloration along the vessels. The body soon undergoes generalized bloating followed by vesicle formation, skin slippage, and hair slippage. By this time, the body is a pale green to green-black color.

From Forensic Pathology by Dominick J. Di Maio, MD and Vincent J. M. Di Maio, MD


Sex Crimes Investigation: A Practical Manual

Burt Rapp

This slim gray volume, “sold for entertainment purposes only,” offers the sort of rarefied entertainment derived from forensic checklists: Don’t forget to swab for semen in the rectum of the corpse as well as the vagina! And while looking through the garbage for bloody underwear may not be a pleasant task, the reader might be consoled by the fact that the murdered victim at least will not offer the emotional resistance so often encountered from the living. Learn the trade secrets of the “Murphy Man” or the “Badger Game”! How much booze can a vice officer consume in the course of his undercover work? Learn how to spot pimps: it’s “fairly simple. Many wear the pimp uniform: long coat and wide-brimmed ‘Superfly’ hat.” All in all, the street-level insights seem to have some basis in reality, but the latter chapters regarding “sex rings” of the telecommunicative sort seem technically clueless and outdated. The author’s suggestions on composing “deviant” letters helpful in busting sexually oriented mail fraud alone are worth the price of the book. RA

Publisher: Breakout
Paperback: 196 pages

The Testimony of Teeth: Forensic Aspects of Human Dentition

Spencer L. Rogers

Contents include “The Anatomy of Teeth and Their Defensive Role,” “The Function and Life Cycle of Teeth,” “Normal Variations in the Teeth,” “Atypical Variations in the Teeth,” “Man-Made Variations in Teeth” and “Dental Identification.”

Publisher: C.C. Thomas
Hardback: 126 pages