PostHeaderIcon He’s A Real Cool Dude: Postmortem Changes In Body Temperature

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While we’re alive our body temperatures are determined by metabolism. It’s a different ballgame, though, once the bucket is kicked.

After death, the body’s core temperature remains fairly constant for a couple of hours. Then it begins to cool by radiation, conduction, and convection, at a rate of 1.5 degrees per hour, until it reaches the ambient temperature—20-30 hours later.

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However, investigators shouldn’t use the body temperature as the sole means of determining when a victim died. There are factors that could, and do, alter the natural cooling process.

When the “moment” does arrive and the victim succumbs to wounds, illness, or natural death, there are factors that may affect the cooling rate of the body, such as:

- Ventilation: A room that’s well-ventilated could actually speed up the rate of cooling by increasing the rate of evaporation.

- Humidity: A body in a humid location cools at a slower rate than one in a hot, dry climate.

- Insulation: A body that’s wrapped in something (including excess body fat) cools slower than one that’s left out in the open.

- Surface temperature: A body lying on a hot surface will cool at a slower rate than one that’s found lying on a cold surface.

And, of course, a body in a hot environment cools much slower than one found lying in a cold climate.

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There are also factors that come into play that could alter the body temps even before death occurs, such as:

- Consumption of drugs, extreme physical activity, and fever could all increase the body temperature.

- Hypothermia could lower the body temperature.

These factors would change the length of time it takes a body to reach the surrounding air temperature.

When the “moment” does arrive and the victim succumbs to wounds, illness, or natural death, there are factors that may affect the cooling rate, such as:

- Ventilation: A room that’s well-ventilated could actually speed up the rate of cooling by increasing the rate of evaporation.

- Humidity: A body in a humid location cools at a slower rate than one in a hot, dry climate.

- Insulation: A body that’s wrapped in something (including excess body fat) cools slower than one that’s left out in the open.

- Surface temperature: A body lying on a hot surface will cool at a slower rate than one that’s found lying on a cold surface.

And, of course, a body in a hot environment cools much slower than one found lying in the snow.

10.4 Toe Tag

Finally, the rate of cooling also affects other “after death” processes, such as rigor mortis—heat speeds up rigor and cold slows it down.

By the way, other factors may also speed up rigor, such as extremely violent exertion prior to death, and alkaloid poisoning. Factors that could slow the rigor process are hemorrhaging by exsanguination, and arsenic poisoning, to name a couple.

And…a handy rule of thumb for decomposition:

One week in air = two weeks in water = eight weeks under ground.

PostHeaderIcon Stupid Drivers…Naked And Confused

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I’ve never been fond of working traffic details—running radar, crash investigations, and the like. Patrol was better, and I suppose that’s because of the diversity of calls. One minute you’re helping an elderly person who’s locked himself out of his house, and the next you’re wading chest deep into a pile of fighting drunks.

I suppose one of the major reasons I grew to despise stopping cars due to high rates of speed, recklessness, and the general failing to obey traffic laws, was because of, well, the stupidity of some drivers.

A motor vehicle, while traveling along the roadways, is basically a great big, fat, projectile that’s just as capable of killing people as any gun. In fact, the chances of survival are perhaps a bit greater when hit by a bullet. Don’t believe it? Well, try standing in the path of a car roaring at you at 80mph and see how well you fare when it strikes you, even with a glancing blow. A bullet, on the other hand, may simply pass through a drooping love handle leaving you with nothing more than a couple of stitches.

But let’s back up a bit to stupid drivers. In fact, let’s narrow the category down to distracted-stupid drivers. I saw a headline this morning in the San Jose Mercury News that read Woman Painting Toenails Gets First Prize For Distracted Driving. To quote the writer (Gary Richards – Mr Roadshow), “I saw a woman PAINTING HER TOENAILS as she drove eastbound on the 237 freeway. She had her left foot up on the dashboard in front of the A/C vent so the cool, dry air would blow across her toes, and she was painting her toenails as she drove during the afternoon commute.”

And you thought texting while driving was bad!

Yes, the toenail painting is definitely not an activity that should take place while driving to work. But this lady is not the only driver guilty of driving while distracted. I, as well as other police officers, have a ton of “distracted driving” stories we could share, and they’re not all about cellphones. A few of the ones I’ve seen and issued a summons for, include…

- Pouring milk and cereal into a bowl and eating it while driving in heavy traffic. All while driving beside my marked police car.

- Eating a bowl of ice cream.

- Applying full face makeup with one hand while holding a large mirror in the other.

- Reading a book (the book was propped against the steering wheel).

- Two nude couples having sex in the same car, while driving at speeds over 60mph. Yes, the driver was one of the four people in the car.

- One nude man…um…enjoying his time alone.

- A man driving his expensive car while a nude woman stood on the seat with a leg on either side of him, with the top half of her body through the sunroof. She smiled and waved at us (I was training a rookie at the time. He was driving) when we switched on the blue lights.

- A man wearing a corrections uniform was driving a car late at night on a deserted stretch of interstate. His passenger was totally nude (male) and handcuffed to the car door.

- A teenager was sitting on the top of the backrest with his upper body through the open sunroof. He was using his feet to drive while a buddy operated the gas and brake from the passenger side. There were four other teens in the backseat, along with a cooler full of cheap beer.

- A teen driver passed by me doing a little over 100mph. On each of the passenger window sills (windows down) sat a teen (boys and girls) with their bare rear ends hanging outside for all the world to see.

- A car zipped by me traveling well above the posted speed limit. What really caught my eye was the large German Shepherd behind the wheel. When I stopped the car I was somewhat relieved to see a very small human woman situated behind and beneath her “lap dog.”

Finally, there was the nude couple having sex in the rear area of an SUV, with back door in the up position. By the way, the description of the back door in the up position fits both the vehicle and one of the parties engaged in the public sexual activity. It was not a pretty sight.

How about you? What’s your worst stupid driver story?

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