Identifier

etd-01242005-145140

Degree

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Geography and Anthropology

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Establishing the postmortem interval (PMI) of a decedent is one of the most important responsibilities a forensic investigator may face. An accurate PMI may aid in the identification of not only the victim, but also a suspect. Although many methods for determining time since death have been proposed, there is still a need to establish more reliable dating techniques. This study determines whether head hair from an individual deteriorates uniformly and if so, what association cuticle damage, fungal growth, and changes in proximal end morphology may have with PMI. Fifteen to 25 scalp hairs were pulled from nine cadavers located in the outdoor field of the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility. In addition, 15 hairs were pulled from a living 59-year-old, Caucasian male to be used as a control. Each case was placed in a category for cuticle damage, fungal growth, and proximal end morphology through the use of microscopic observations. Chi-square tests were used to determine whether head hair from the same individual deteriorates uniformly, what association cuticle damage, fungal growth, and changes in proximal end morphology may have with PMI, and what association cuticle damage, fungal growth, and changes in proximal end morphology have with each other. This study demonstrates that head hair from the same individual deteriorates uniformly. In addition, fungal growth and changes in proximal end morphology have a significant association with PMI; conversely, cuticle damage and PMI have a nonsignificant relationship. A significant association exists between fungal growth and changes in proximal end morphology. On the other hand, the relationships between cuticle damage and fungal growth, and cuticle damage and changes in proximal end morphology were not significant. Utilized in conjunction with other dating methods, the observations of fungal growth and changes in proximal end morphology of human head hair may prove beneficial in estimating a PMI.

Date

2005

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Robert Tague

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