Jorge Nuno Pinto De Melo 07037694ForensicLiterature ProjectPH3H052010/2011
Nature of Fatal Fires: Accidental Homicidal Suicidal Homicide ConcealmentThe fatal fire must be viewed as an investigation for the criminal acts of arson and homicide.
Fire Fire Examination Examination Incident Incident of the body of the body Cause and Origin/Investigative Cause and Origin/Investigative Canvass CanvassInvestigativ Investigativ ee Procedure Procedure Follow-up Follow-up Arrest and Investigatio Investigatio Arrest and n Trial Trial n
Maintenance of the fire scene Arrival of the investigator Chiefs report
•Chief ﬁre ofﬁcer•Fire/police investigator. Firefighters and other emergency personnel should be prevented from removing a human body, found in the charred debris Exception to this rule: Any doubt as to whether the person is dead Danger of fire-structure collapse or falling debris creating a serious hazard A serious threat that the body will be further damaged by the spread of flames The continued presence of the body being a serious hindrance to firefighting operations.
General observations Detailed background Identification of himself to the chief fire officer
Determination whether the fire’s origin and/or cause were suspiciousCommon factors that may determine a fire suspicious: The rate of burning was not consistent with the type of combustibles present in the fire building A person died in the fire There were questionable or multiple points of origin The cause of the fire could not be readily ascertained Firefighters noticed an odor of gasoline or other accelerant
Medical examiner/coroner is responsible for ensuring thatboth investigation at the scene and autopsy on the body of thevictim are conducted Autopsy is conducted by a forensic pathologist Scene investigation is conducted by a medicalexaminer/coroner´s representative/physician Fire/police investigator advise the local medical examiner´soffice as soon as possible as to the known facts and circumstancesrelating to the fire and victim(s).
1. Recording the scene2. Identifying the victim3. Determining whether the fire occurred ante- or postmortem4. Examining/collecting physical evidence
Photographs of the body in situ Photographs of the room and area Investigative notes Rough sketches
Fire investigator- collect items that can identify the victim Forensic odontologist- dental records Pathologists- autopsy Medical/physical- tattoos, surgical procedures, bones fractures, unusual deformations, sex race, build, fractures and approximate age, jewelry, clothing etc. Gross identification (friends/relatives) Forensic scientists - Fingerprints
There are several factor which may help to get to someconclusions:Physical examination: •Was the victim face up or down? (Exception: victim found in bed or couch) •Presence of smoke and soot in the mouth and nose if the victim was alive during the fireBody damage is described on the table below:
Natural settling of the blood after death Gravitational pooling of the blood Purplish/Blue-black Location depends on position of the body Concentrations of carbon monoxide in the blood cause postmortem lividity to be pink to cherry-red in color. Redness of the lividity might indicate that the victim was alive and breathing at the time of the fire. • Defensive boxing pose or fetal position. • Contraction of the muscles due to the intense heat •If it doesn’t occur: •No sufficient heat (flash fire) •Body in rigor mortis during the fire.
Fracture implosive Fracture explosive Natural consequence Blow in the head of the fire. •Medical investigator Postmortem: limited in size, air with Blisters small amount of body fluid Antemortem: larger in size, contain complex mix of body fluids
Fire investigator: responsible for determining the fire´s origin and cause (physical examination) Police: responsible for the death investigations Medical investigator: authorizes and supervises the removal of the body.
The result of the physical examinations carried out by themedical examiner will depend on several narrowlycircumscribed factors: • Cause of the ﬁre (accidental or incendiary). • The possible use of an accelerant (gasoline/kerosene,etc) • Survivability: why the victim failed to escape safely?! •Interview friends and/or relatives that have just escaped from the fire •The investigator uses the tension and stress manifested by the ﬁre survivors as a motivating factor to elicit information.
Medicolegal autopsy Identiﬁcation Time of death Circumstances of death Correlation of injuries Evidence Survivability X-rays Carboxyhemoglobin Alcohol and Controlled Substances Toxicology
Causes are determined by the pathologist: Burns Burns plus CO asphyxiation Spasm of the epiglottis Acute alcoholism plus CO asphyxiation Edema Shock Gunshot wound or stabbing
Cause of Fire Cause of Death Investigative Procedure Accidental CO asphyxiation Close case during follow-up investigation Incendiary CO asphyxiation (Homicidal) Investigate as an arson/homicide Accidental Gunshot, stabbing, manual or ligature asphyxiation, blunt force trauma, etc., prior to the fire Motive for the fire important (Homicidal) Investigate as a homicide Incendiary Prior to fire Investigate as a homicide (Homicidal) Fire used to conceal Accidental CO asphyxiation plus other natural illness Close case during follow-up (Accidental) Incendiary CO asphyxiation Additional Investigate as an arson/homicide injury (implosive skull fracture) Fire to conceal prior assault or (Homicidal) attempted homicide.
Police investigator • In homicide situations (e.g., apparent shooting or stabbing victim, victim’s hands and/or feet bound, or ligature tied around the neck).• Motive (e.g., domestic, robbery, narcotics, sex crime) becomesa key issue in identifying a suspect• Concealment• Key element: identification of the motive of the fire• Level of sophistication or technical knowledge exhibited bythe ﬁre setter.
Arrest Based on Probable Cause minimum level of proof necessary to justify an arrest must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction Arrest with a warrant Trial What to be proved: 1. That crime (arson) was committed 2. That the defendant committed the crime There is an additional burden of proving: 3. That the actions of the defendant led to the death of the victim All witnesses are called to testify
Internal Bloodstains Livor mortis postmortem epidural hematoma (brown/honeycomb structure) Internal Changes Hemolysis External bloodstains May fuel the fire Wet vs. Dry Bloodstains Dried bloodstains keep the original shape and better configuration with the action of the heat.
The Human body Burns First degree (superficial): red skin, warm to touch Second degree (partial thickness): red skin, blisters Third degree (full thickness): burns appear dry and light colored and blisters are not normally seen. Fourth degree: burns involve long exposure to a heat source which results in the partial cremation of the exposed portion of the body and extends into layers below the skin Smoke and Sludge May cover bloodstain evidence on walls and ceilings. Target Surfaces Some surfaces may preserve bloodstains.
A Fatal fire occurred Body found on the floor of the bedroom and it was removed by Firefighters Investigators found that it was used accelerant on the mattress Pathologist found multiple stabbing wounds Projected bloodstains were “faded” and lighter in appearance than the adjacent soot-covered surfaces. Swabs were obtained from the altered blood “Wet vs dry effect experiment” Main objective: identify any physiological differences between the wet and dry stains, when they were subjected to ﬁre
Results The closer the blood stain to the ﬁre, the more physiological changes. The further away the stain, the less prevalent the changes, but these characteristics were still present. Stains on painted surfaces were most affected by the fading phenomenon Swiping marks situated further than 50 cm from the ﬁre darkened in color All projected stains near to and at a distance from the ﬁre were subjected to a darkening effect No fading in projected stains The effects of water provided physiological changes The stains are recognizable as being altered bloodstains and should be used as part of the bloodstain pattern analysis. The “wet vs. dry” experiment may be a valuable piece of information.
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