Comparative analysis of bones, mites, soil chemistry, nematodes and soil micro-eukaryotes from a suspected homicide to estimate the post-mortem interval
OPEN Scientific reports | 10 Jan 2018
I Szelecz, S Lösch, CVW Seppey, E Lara, D Singer, F Sorge, J Tschui, MA Perotti and EAD Mitchell
Criminal investigations of suspected murder cases require estimating the post-mortem interval (PMI, or time after death) which is challenging for long PMIs. Here we present the case of human remains found in a Swiss forest. We have used a multidisciplinary approach involving the analysis of bones and soil samples collected beneath the remains of the head, upper and lower body and “control” samples taken a few meters away. We analysed soil chemical characteristics, mites and nematodes (by microscopy) and micro-eukaryotes (by Illumina high throughput sequencing). The PMI estimate on hair 14C-data via bomb peak radiocarbon dating gave a time range of 1 to 3 years before the discovery of the remains. Cluster analyses for soil chemical constituents, nematodes, mites and micro-eukaryotes revealed two clusters 1) head and upper body and 2) lower body and controls. From mite evidence, we conclude that the body was probably brought to the site after death. However, chemical analyses, nematode community analyses and the analyses of micro-eukaryotes indicate that decomposition took place at least partly on site. This study illustrates the usefulness of combining several lines of evidence for the study of homicide cases to better calibrate PMI inference tools.
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