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Forensic Sci., Volume 3, Issue 1 (March 2023) – 14 articles

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13 pages, 689 KiB  
Article
Age-at-Death Estimation: Accuracy and Reliability of Common Age-Reporting Strategies in Forensic Anthropology
by Christine Bailey and Giovanna Vidoli
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 179-191; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010014 - 20 Mar 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3170
Abstract
Forensic anthropologists build a biological profile—consisting of sex, age, population affinity, and stature estimates—to assist medicolegal stakeholders in the identification of unknown human skeletal remains. While adult age-at-death estimations can narrow the pool of potential individuals, a lack of standards, best practices, and [...] Read more.
Forensic anthropologists build a biological profile—consisting of sex, age, population affinity, and stature estimates—to assist medicolegal stakeholders in the identification of unknown human skeletal remains. While adult age-at-death estimations can narrow the pool of potential individuals, a lack of standards, best practices, and consensus among anthropologists for method selection and the production of a final age estimate present significant challenges. The purpose of this research is to identify age-reporting strategies that provide the most accurate and reliable (i.e., low inaccuracy and low bias) adult age-at-death estimates when evaluated considering the total sample, age cohort (20–39; 40–59; 60–79), and sex. Age-reporting strategies in this study were derived from six age-at-death estimation methods and tested on 58 adult individuals (31 males, 27 females) from the UTK Donated Skeletal Collection. An experienced-based estimation strategy was also assessed. A paired-samples t-test was used to determine whether there was a significant difference (p ≤ 0.05) between the mean estimated age and the actual age for all age-reporting strategies. Results show that the most accurate and reliable age-reporting strategy varied if the sample was evaluated as a whole, by age, or by sex. While none of the age-reporting strategies evaluated in this study were consistently the most accurate and reliable for all of the sample categories, the experience-based approach performed well for each group. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Estimating Age in Forensic Anthropology)
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10 pages, 269 KiB  
Article
The Code of Ethics and Conduct for Forensic Specialists: A Framework from The Portuguese Association of Forensic Sciences
by Áurea Madureira-Carvalho, Nelson G. M. Gomes, Diana Dias-da-Silva, Rui M. S. Azevedo, Luís Marques Fernandes, Ricardo Jorge Dinis-Oliveira and Inês Morais Caldas
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 169-178; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010013 - 15 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3320
Abstract
Forensic sciences aggregate a series of scientific and technological domains that aid the judiciary and judicial system. Despite the highly specialized and qualified professionals taking a role in forensic practice, this paradigmatic integration of law, science, and technology often leads them to face [...] Read more.
Forensic sciences aggregate a series of scientific and technological domains that aid the judiciary and judicial system. Despite the highly specialized and qualified professionals taking a role in forensic practice, this paradigmatic integration of law, science, and technology often leads them to face significant ethical challenges. Indeed, forensic sciences hold a unique position due to the social and legal implications inherent to forensic expertise. The potential interference with personal rights and freedoms requires the professional practice of the forensic specialist to be guided by alignment with scientific-technical competence under the seal of the highest ethical principles. However, the absence of a specific statutory regulation blurs the performance of the forensic professional and may harm the professional credibility but also the scientific domain as a whole. The existence of ethical pillars is essential to support professional practice, following international recommendations in this regard. Herein, we propose a framework for a code of ethics and conduct that is based on the professional particularities characterizing the forensic practice but also considers the ethical issues that are mandatory to ensure high levels of reliability and credibility of forensic specialists. Full article
20 pages, 22157 KiB  
Article
The Effects of Physiological Stress on the Accuracy of Age-at-Death Estimation in The Hamann–Todd Collection
by Allyson M. Simon, Colleen M. Cheverko, Melissa A. Clark, Tempest D. Mellendorf and Mark Hubbe
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 149-168; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010012 - 15 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1764
Abstract
Age-at-death estimation is influenced by biological and environmental factors. Physiological stress is intertwined with these factors, yet their impact on senescence and age estimation is unknown. Stature, linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), and antemortem tooth loss (AMTL) in the Hamann–Todd Osteological Collection (n [...] Read more.
Age-at-death estimation is influenced by biological and environmental factors. Physiological stress is intertwined with these factors, yet their impact on senescence and age estimation is unknown. Stature, linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), and antemortem tooth loss (AMTL) in the Hamann–Todd Osteological Collection (n = 297) are used to understand whether physiological stress is related to age estimation inaccuracy using transition analysis (TA). Considering the low socioeconomic status of individuals in the collection, it was expected that many people experienced moderate to severe physiological stressors throughout their lives. Of the sample, 44.1% had at least one LEH, but analyses found no relationship between LEH incidence and TA error. There was no association between stature and TA error for males or females. However, females with at least one LEH had significantly shorter statures (t = 2.412, p = 0.009), but males did not exhibit the same pattern (t = 1.498, p = 0.068). Further, AMTL frequency and TA error were related (r = 0.276, p < 0.001). A partial correlation controlling for age-at-death yielded a correlation coefficient of 0.024 (p = 0.684), suggesting that this relationship is mostly explained by age-at-death. These data suggest that age estimation methods are not significantly affected by physiological stress in this sample, but further investigations are needed to understand how these variables relate to skeletal aging. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Estimating Age in Forensic Anthropology)
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24 pages, 7435 KiB  
Article
Exploring Adult Age-at-Death Research in Anthropology: Bibliometric Mapping and Content Analysis
by Vanessa Campanacho and Francisca Alves-Cardoso
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 125-148; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010011 - 8 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1845
Abstract
Although there are known limited skeletal traits that can be used to estimate age-at-death, an increasing body of literature is addressing this topic. This is particularly true in journals dedicated to forensic anthropology and past population studies. Research has focused mostly on methodological [...] Read more.
Although there are known limited skeletal traits that can be used to estimate age-at-death, an increasing body of literature is addressing this topic. This is particularly true in journals dedicated to forensic anthropology and past population studies. Research has focused mostly on methodological developments, aiming to update and validate age-at-death methods’ accuracy, with recurrent formulation, reformulation, testing, and re-testing of classical methodological approaches in multiple populational datasets and using novel statistical approaches. This paper explores aging research in adults published over the last century, aiming to portray major research agendas and highlight main institutions and co-authorship networks. A comprehensive dataset of bibliometric data from 1225 publications on age-at-death estimation, published between 1890 and October 2022, was used in the analysis. Major results showed that since the 1990s there has been continuous growth in aging research, predominantly by institutions in the United States. However, in the last 2 decades, research contributions from institutions with a wider geographical location were observed. Moreover, the research terms associated with aging are not limited to bone changes. Rather, dental-related changes are major contributors to aging research. Temporal trends suggested changes in research agendas related to terms and institutional co-authorships which may bring more inclusive and accurate-related method developments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Estimating Age in Forensic Anthropology)
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5 pages, 199 KiB  
Commentary
Is It Time to Revisit the Definition of Serial Homicide? New Evidence and Theory
by D J Williams
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 120-124; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010010 - 6 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1351
Abstract
Historically, serial homicide has been defined in various ways by experts. Recently, there have been renewed efforts to arrive at a consensus definition, yet these efforts have not yet been resolved. At the heart of the controversy appears to be the prioritization of [...] Read more.
Historically, serial homicide has been defined in various ways by experts. Recently, there have been renewed efforts to arrive at a consensus definition, yet these efforts have not yet been resolved. At the heart of the controversy appears to be the prioritization of either qualitative definitional features, such as offenders’ intentions and motives, or more observable quantitative features, specifically a minimum threshold of completed murders. The present technical note briefly summarizes this controversy before considering new empirical and theoretical research developments. These developments support a definition that includes a three-victim minimum threshold of forensically linked murderers by the same person(s), occurring in separate events over time, wherein a primary motive is often personal gratification (leisure experience). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Forensic Sciences in 2022)
26 pages, 23499 KiB  
Article
The Composite Method: A Novel, Continuum-Based Approach to Estimating Age from the Female Pubic Symphysis with Particular Relevance to Mature Adults
by Janamarie Truesdell
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 94-119; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010009 - 2 Mar 2023
Viewed by 2440
Abstract
While a myriad of effective techniques exist to aid in symphyseal age estimation for those 40 years and younger, few offer similar levels of efficacy for those beyond that threshold. Through the application of a novel technique, this study sought to determine whether [...] Read more.
While a myriad of effective techniques exist to aid in symphyseal age estimation for those 40 years and younger, few offer similar levels of efficacy for those beyond that threshold. Through the application of a novel technique, this study sought to determine whether a closer inspection of degenerative change may help to improve precision in age estimation for post-epiphyseal adults. Results show that the combination of five distinct areas of interest, plus a correction for density, accurately estimated age 87.75% of the time (averaged amongst four observers [spread: 72–100%]) for a subset of 50 living British females. An adjusted R2 value of 0.85, an RSME value of 5.62 years, and a PCC value of 0.92 also confirmed the trialed technique to be a good predictor of age for the entirety of the larger female sample (n = 533). Low inaccuracy (3.86 years) and Bias (0.69 years) further indicate that a continuum-based approach, without pre-set phases or ranges, such as was utilized by this research holds the potential to be at least as effective as the currently available methodologies but with the added advantage of allowing for increased variation at the individual level. Age estimation by linear regression, or by simple addition, yielded estimation envelopes (intervals) of 22–23 and 24 years, respectively, which remain narrow enough to be forensically useful while still wide enough to maximize accuracy in mature adults. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Estimating Age in Forensic Anthropology)
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14 pages, 2402 KiB  
Article
The Colección Osteológica Subactual de Santiago: Origin and Current State of a Documented Skeletal Collection from Chile, Latin America
by Ofelia Meza-Escobar, Jacqueline Galimany, Rocío González-Oyarce and Nicole Barreaux Höpfl
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 80-93; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010008 - 13 Feb 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2064
Abstract
This manuscript aims to introduce the Colección Osteológica Subactual de Santiago (COSS), a documented skeletal collection from Santiago, Chile, consisting of 1635 individuals living in low socioeconomic areas of the capital during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The origin and current [...] Read more.
This manuscript aims to introduce the Colección Osteológica Subactual de Santiago (COSS), a documented skeletal collection from Santiago, Chile, consisting of 1635 individuals living in low socioeconomic areas of the capital during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The origin and current state of this collection, as well as the process by which it came to be housed at the University of Chile, is described. As of today, after long efforts for further documentation and improvements on the physical conditions of the collection, biological sex and age-at-death has been documented through burial records for 1198 individuals. Largely studied by Chilean researchers and students, the COSS collection has enabled a great amount of research, while also serving as part of a thriving scholarly community from different disciplines. Finally, discussion around representativeness, legal status and ethical concerns are addressed, highlighting the specific issues faced when working and studying the COSS collection. Full article
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11 pages, 2401 KiB  
Technical Note
Involving Forensic Students in Integrative Learning—A Project Proposal
by A. Teixeira, A. Azevedo, D. Pérez-Mongiovi, I. M. Caldas and J. Costa-Rodrigues
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 69-79; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010007 - 7 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1842
Abstract
In our experience, university students enrolling in health science and forensic science degrees show difficulty in retaining and integrating basic scientific knowledge learned in their first academic year. Furthermore, in the forensic sciences case, many students have oversimplified and unrealistic expectations as a [...] Read more.
In our experience, university students enrolling in health science and forensic science degrees show difficulty in retaining and integrating basic scientific knowledge learned in their first academic year. Furthermore, in the forensic sciences case, many students have oversimplified and unrealistic expectations as a result of the exposure to crime TV shows, internet blogs, and other social media platforms. Our pedagogical proposal is focused on second-year university students, aiming at promoting effective learning and the integration of scientific knowledge from previous courses, in this particular example, molecular and cell biology and biochemistry, with more advanced forensic courses, such as forensic anthropology and odontology. Teams composed of students and tutors from the teaching staff, with the help of dichotomous keys, are challenged to analyze a crime scene and choose the relevant evidence to further investigate, determine the scientific approach, execute the experimental work, interpret the results and, finally, resolve the case. To assess the pedagogical advantages and the receptivity of this project, a survey is to be carried out among students, and respective statistical analysis is also proposed. Finally, we hope this project outline may be adapted to other subjects, and, therefore, be used to address different pedagogical questions in forensic studies. Full article
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24 pages, 2062 KiB  
Article
Linguistic Indicators of Psychopathy and Malignant Narcissism in the Personal Letters of the Austrian Killer Jack Unterweger
by Karoline Marko and Ida Leibetseder
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 45-68; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010006 - 3 Feb 2023
Viewed by 3911
Abstract
Forensic authorship profiling aims to extract socio-demographic information about the authors of anonymous texts based on linguistic features found in their written texts. One aspect of such a profile that is not usually considered is an analysis of the author’s personality traits. The [...] Read more.
Forensic authorship profiling aims to extract socio-demographic information about the authors of anonymous texts based on linguistic features found in their written texts. One aspect of such a profile that is not usually considered is an analysis of the author’s personality traits. The present study intends to provide a starting point for research into this area. This will be achieved through the investigation of linguistic features reflective of the conditions of psychopathy and malignant narcissism in 14 personal letters of the killer Jack Unterweger. Previous research in the field of psychology has largely examined “psychopathic” and “narcissistic” language in spoken conversations rather than written ones, or in texts produced for the respective study rather than in naturally occurring texts. The findings of the present study thus diverge from previous findings in some aspects (e.g., the use of first-person pronouns), while they provide support for others (e.g., the incoherence of thoughts and changes in topics). Full article
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11 pages, 1406 KiB  
Article
Intravenous-Therapy-Associated Circulatory Overload: A Retrospective Study of Forensic Cases
by Guangtao Xu, Ruibing Su, Junyao Lv, Long Xu, Xin Jin, Deqing Chen, Bo Hu and Xiaojun Yu
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 34-44; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010005 - 28 Jan 2023
Viewed by 2234
Abstract
Background and Objective: Intravenous therapy is widely used in clinics to deliver medications and fluids to patients, and overuse may cause intravenous-infusion-associated circulatory overload (IACO) and death. However, forensic data on deaths from the overuse of intravenous therapy are limited. We performed a [...] Read more.
Background and Objective: Intravenous therapy is widely used in clinics to deliver medications and fluids to patients, and overuse may cause intravenous-infusion-associated circulatory overload (IACO) and death. However, forensic data on deaths from the overuse of intravenous therapy are limited. We performed a retrospective study to identify whether causes of death in forensic practice were associated with IACO. Methods: A total of 572 medical-related cases with a history of intravenous infusion who suffered from injuries or illnesses and died after treatment in hospitals were recruited from two centers of forensic medicine between 2002 and 2018. Results: The results demonstrated that 6.47% of cases (37/572) were exposed to an infusion overdose that resulted in deaths related to IACO, and 43.24% of cases (16/37) had a net fluid retention ranging from 3.0 L/d to 13.8 L/d. The highest case was administered 1.4 L blood products and 13.6 L fluids within 25 h. We observed significant decreases in red blood cells, hematocrit, hemoglobin, and platelets from the time of “on admission” to “before death”, except for white blood cells. Autopsy findings of 16 cases revealed some organ or tissue pathological alterations related to IACO, including pale-yellow liquid overflow under the abdominal epidermis, much transudate in body cavities, and lung edema with a high tissue density and no obvious slurry deposition in the alveolar lumen. Another 21 cases died after a rapid infusion rate ranging from 111 to 293 drops/min, which resulted from viral myocarditis on autopsy. Conclusions: Our data on excessive or irrational use of intravenous therapy indicate a severe circulatory overload, which may eventually result in lethal outcomes. Therefore, the use of improper intravenous therapy should be reduced to ameliorate adverse health consequences during clinical treatment. Full article
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12 pages, 1140 KiB  
Article
A Non-Racial Approach to Assessing Group Membership of Victims in a Mass Grave Using Cranial Data
by John Albanese and Alyssa Di Iorio
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 22-33; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010004 - 25 Jan 2023
Viewed by 1669
Abstract
In some jurisdictions, race, ancestry, or population affinity have been used for historical and po-litical, rather than biological, reasons in forensic anthropology when identifying individuals. The approach persists even though the genetic and skeletal data clearly demonstrate that human variation does not cluster [...] Read more.
In some jurisdictions, race, ancestry, or population affinity have been used for historical and po-litical, rather than biological, reasons in forensic anthropology when identifying individuals. The approach persists even though the genetic and skeletal data clearly demonstrate that human variation does not cluster into these groups. For over 60 years, these methods have consistently performed poorly when independently tested using large samples. By racializing the deceased, these methods have further marginalized the living. However, there is a need in the investigation of genocide and human rights violations to demonstrate that a specific group was targeted. Without relying on the outdated typological concepts of human variation, in this paper we present preliminary results for a method that can be used in a mass grave context to demonstrate that a specific group was targeted. Using samples from two identified reference collections, we created subsamples from one relatively homogeneous collection to model various mass grave scenarios and used the relatively heterogenous sample from the other collection as a reference for com-parison. In scenarios that varied by sample size and sex, it was possible to determine that a specific group was targeted if the sample size in a hypothetical mass grave was greater than 25 for a multi-sex sample, when sex is not known, and a minimum of 14 if sex could be estimated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Forensic Sciences in 2022)
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2 pages, 235 KiB  
Editorial
Acknowledgment to the Reviewers of Forensic Sciences in 2022
by Forensic Sciences Editorial Office
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 20-21; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010003 - 20 Jan 2023
Viewed by 850
Abstract
High-quality academic publishing is built on rigorous peer review [...] Full article
8 pages, 20380 KiB  
Article
Microstructural Examination of Molten Marks on Copper Wire for Fire Investigation
by Suphattra Sachana, Kohei Morishita and Hirofumi Miyahara
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 12-19; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010002 - 6 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2622
Abstract
Fire investigators have attempted to study fire behaviors through microstructural examination of molten marks on copper wire. However, there have not been many studies on the metallurgical examination of real-world cases. This research examined the surface morphology and microstructure in the longitudinal section [...] Read more.
Fire investigators have attempted to study fire behaviors through microstructural examination of molten marks on copper wire. However, there have not been many studies on the metallurgical examination of real-world cases. This research examined the surface morphology and microstructure in the longitudinal section of molten marks on copper wire from various fire scenes to explain how they formed and identify the surrounding materials. The results show that the foreign elements discovered via EDS on the surface of molten marks vary depending on their environment. Molten mark microstructures differed even if they were collected from the same fire scene; a distinct microstructure implies different molten mark formations. Moreover, the presence of residual elements in the microstructure indicates the existence of surrounding materials during formation in a fire. Therefore, microstructural diversity and the presence of residual elements may guide fire investigators in explaining the formation of molten marks and the fire environment for fire investigation. Full article
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11 pages, 992 KiB  
Article
Anoxia Tolerance in Four Forensically Important Calliphorid Species
by Melissa Lein Authement, Leon G. Higley and William Wyatt Hoback
Forensic Sci. 2023, 3(1), 1-11; https://doi.org/10.3390/forensicsci3010001 - 27 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1640
Abstract
Forensically important blow flies, Diptera: Calliphoridae, are among the first organisms to colonize carrion. After eggs hatch, the larvae of most blow fly species feed in an aggregation or “mass”. While in this mass larvae may experience periods of hypoxia/anoxia, but the tolerance [...] Read more.
Forensically important blow flies, Diptera: Calliphoridae, are among the first organisms to colonize carrion. After eggs hatch, the larvae of most blow fly species feed in an aggregation or “mass”. While in this mass larvae may experience periods of hypoxia/anoxia, but the tolerance of blow fly larvae to anoxic conditions is poorly studied. We tested the anoxia tolerance of four species of calliphorids (Calliphora vicina, Cochliomyia macellaria, Lucilia sericata, and Phormia regina), by examining actively feeding third-stage larvae across five temperatures. Experiments were conducted by exposing larvae to pure nitrogen environments and determining mortality at set time intervals. All species show significant linear relationships between survival time and temperature under anoxic conditions. Of species tested, C. macellaria had the greatest tolerance to anoxia (LT50 of 9 h at 20 °C). In contrast, C. vicina was the least tolerant (LT50 of 2.2 h at 40 °C). With all species, survivorship decreased with increasing temperature. Unlike many other insects tested in severe hypoxia, the larvae of the calliphorids tested, which included members of three subfamilies, were not tolerant of anoxic conditions. From these findings, it seems likely that hypoxia is a significant limitation for maggots in a maggot mass, particularly when the mass temperature is high (>40 °C). Forensically, these data provide a limit on potential maggot survival on bodies that have been submerged or otherwise experience severe hypoxia before discovery. Full article
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