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Fisher, Russell S. How the Pathologist Can Aid the Arson Investigator. Fire and Arson Investigator. March, 1985. pp. 19-24.

Abstract: This article explains how anthropologic techniques can assist fire investigators with identifying bodies destroyed by the fire. The sex, age, and height of the victim can all be determined by examination of the remains. A pathologist can also assist the medical examiner determine the cause of death.

The investigator should look for remnants of clothing that may reveal the sex of the victim. If none survived the fire, recognizable sex organs can usually be identified. If the body is severely damaged, the bone structure can be analyzed to determine the sex. Male bones are heavier than female bones and arranged slightly differently. There are also noticeable differences in the skulls of males and females.

Scientists can frequently determine the age of a burned body with the accuracy of plus or minus five years. Hardening of the arteries occurs with age and helps narrow the possibilities. In male victims, the size of the prostate gland can determine if the body is over fifty or not. There are definitive skeletal signs for those under 25 and those between the ages of 22 and 35. Examination of the jaw and teeth also reveals important age information.

Scientists have developed a formula for determining the height of a victim. If the length of the femur bone is known, scientists or investigators can figure out the height of the victim with one-inch accuracy. The article fully explains the techniques scientists employ to determine the characteristics of severely burned victims.

For more information, contact:
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)
300 Broadway Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63102-2808
Phone: 314-621-1966

 
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