Validation of a new method of providing case‐specific time‐of‐death estimates using cadaver temperatures

Abstract

The near ubiquitous presence of numerical simulation has made case‐specific calculations of body temperatures following death possible so that accurate calculations of body temperatures can provide valuable information for estimating the time of death and can aid in forensic investigations. Here, a computational approach is described that has been validated against multiple, independent, and experimental investigations. The approach only requires one subjective input parameter (the heat transfer coefficient). A simple algorithm serves as a guidepost to the selection of this parameter. The algorithm incorporates clothing and the space in which the body is housed. Heat transfer coefficients that range from h = 2 W/m2/°C for bodies that are heavily clothed to h = 9 W/m2/°C for bodies that are nude (in air). The method also requires setting of ambient temperature conditions (ambient temperature) — however, that input is often available. The paucity of inputs makes this technique remarkably easy to employ. The new method is also able to calculate cadaver cooling rates for situations where the cadaver is in a timewise or spatially changing thermal environment (diurnal temperature variations, bodies partially submerged in water, changes to weather, insolation, etc.). Results from the present calculations are compared with a large body of measurements from the literature; it was found that the predictions and measurements were in excellent agreement, regardless of the ambient temperature conditions and the nature of the clothing of the body. This new calculation approach can be used with reasonable accuracy for determining cadaver cooling and time since death.