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Measuring Desiccation Using Qualitative Changes: A Step Toward Determining Regional Decomposition Sequences

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 64 Issue: 4 Dated: 2019 Pages: 1004-1011
Date Published
8 pages

The creation and features of a regional decomposition scoring system for western Colorado are outlined as a model for the development of regional systems.


The development of such a scoring system requires: (1) human remains, not proxies, (2) longitudinal observations, and (3) large sample size. First, an enhanced system (total body desiccation score [TBDS] ) was developed through observations of 40 human remains. This effort produced a categorical scoring model augmented by qualitative categories of gross tissue change. The new model was tested with retrospective photographic packets. A sample of eight donors with data collected over 3 years was selected. Monthly data points over a maximum of a 3-year period yielded 112 data points. Correlations between TBDS and accumulated degree-days (ADD ), and total body score (TBS ) and ADD were approximately equal for a TBS below -20, but the TBDS correlated better with ADD at higher TBS scores >20. The TBDS may be used to refine postmortem interval (PMI ) models in areas where remains desiccate. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019