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Term Paper Example: Death Investigation

4 pages
966 words
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Term paper
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In a circumstance where death occurs, medical examiners and physicians are given a task to prepare a certificate that could be used to verify the occurrence. In the preparation of this document, some critical factors are normally questioned, and this includes the cause, mechanism and the manner in which death took place. To the justice investigating teams, such aspects are considered, and that explains why the medical examiners must be incorporated in the process.

Fundamental differences in natural death, accidental death, suicide, and homicide.

There are different types of death depending on its cause, and this includes the following;

Natural death: - refers to a type of death that occurs when the body ceases to function as a result of medical factors including heart disease, kidney failure or any other terminal infection. It occurs due to natural causes.

Homicide: - refers to pre-meditated murder or the act of taking human life by another purposefully through planning.

Accidental death: - It is a death that occurs by means besides murder, natural death or suicide. It can be caused by another human but involuntarily. Also, an individual might die by acts of taking risks, through sports, acts of adventure, etc. Notably, it is usually unexpected and unplanned hence its accidental nature.

Suicide: - It is a type of death where one takes his or her own life deliberately. It may be as a result of drug overdose, emotional distress, cutting oneself, etc.

Death classification is critical in the prevention of assumptions regarding the cause, mechanisms, and manner of death. It is motivated to determine facts behind death and ensure that the family is contented and satisfied with the findings.

Summary of a type of death and the key factors that the police used to classify the death. Additional factors that the police should collect for the death investigation

An example of a successfully investigated death case involves that of a young lady Ashley Nicole murdered and found by two truck drivers behind 9170 Old Annapolis Road in a wooded area in Columbia. The major suspects in the incident were Scott Jory Jones and Fredrick James Johnson. In arriving at a conclusion and arrest of the suspects, the police followed the following procedures and investigations.

First, the crime scene perimeter was determined, and forensic investigators and technicians arrived at the place in time. Evidence was assembled including the pictures of the body of the deceased, the pool of blood. Furthermore, the entire wooden area was searched, and the murder weapon was spotted.

Furthermore, the next of kin of the victim was informed about the incident which was immediately followed by an interview. Notably, the medical examiners conducted the DNA test to the blood stains and the hair strands found on the dagger (murder weapon).Results indicate that the blood stains matched that of Johnson, an indication that in the process he also injured himself. It was clear evidence that made the security agency to order for his arrest. Following the arrest was interviewing where he confirmed how he allegedly stabbed and dragged her into the woods.

One important aspect that the police should have focused on was the history of the two and the reasons that might have made them plot to kill her though that was not prioritized, the School administration, as well as friends, should also have part central to the investigation. An important aspect was the determination of fingerprints should have as well been easily used in the identification of the criminals and most importantly instead of taking longer duration in finding the next of kin, neighbors should have been used.

Fundamental differences in investigating a death case versus other types of crimes

The major difference between death cases and other crimes is that death cases are motivated to find answers to the loved ones, and strictly adhere to the rules and guidelines (Hanzlick, 2016). Also, any clue that directs the case as suicidal, homicide or natural is handled by investigating team involving physicians and medical examiners. Evidence is strictly collected to arrive at an accurate conclusion.

Analysis of the various ways in which environmental factors may influence the medical examination and autopsy in death investigations.

Just like in the highlighted case, upon the arrival of the investigators, boundaries must be well ascertained. No movement is to be made before proper observation. The right way to approach the scene is to be established. When conducting the survey, escort by the officer is critical. Presence of the evidence are to be checked and collected acceptably. Work photos are to be taken to prevent evidence from being tampered with. A perfect example of this investigation is that of the death of Robin William; an actor believed to have died as a result of suicide. Preliminary investigations reveal that he had a knife with a closed blade that he used to cut himself on his left wrist.


The skin is first likely to turn green as the rigor passes at the abdomen. Formation of methane gas may make the body to swell. The bacteria in the body proliferate, notably, their growth escalates in warm temperature and reduces in low temperature.

Rigor Mortis

After death, the body muscles immediately reduce in size or become flaccid (Tsokos, & Byard, 2012). The body joints immediately freeze and become rigid in a span of 3hrs. The process is as well accelerated in warmer temperatures and reduced through cooler conditions.

Algor Mortis

Immediately after death and the stopping of the body metabolism, it adjusts to being at equilibrium with the environmental temperatures (Vass, 2012). The temperature reduction is the Algor Mortis.



Hanzlick, R. (2016). Death investigation: systems and procedures. CRC Press.

Tsokos, M., & Byard, R. W. (2012). Putrefactive rigor mortis. Forensic science, medicine, and pathology, 8(2), 200-201.

Vass, A. A. (2012). Odor mortis. Forensic science international, 222(1), 234-241.


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