A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Forensic Identification of a Late Discovery Victim of a Motorcycle Accident

Case Report

Austin J Forensic Sci Criminol. 2014;1(2): 4.

A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Forensic Identification of a Late Discovery Victim of a Motorcycle Accident

Moraitis K1*, Eliopoulos C2, Zorba E1, Mitsea AG3, Falsetti C4 and Spiliopoulou C1

1Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of Athens, Greece

2Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, Liverpool John Moores University, U.K

2Department of Oral Diagnosis and Radiology, University of Athens, Greece

2Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, USA

*Corresponding author: Moraitis K, Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, School of Medicine, University of Athens, 75 M. Asias Str., 11527 Athens, Greece

Received: September 29, 2014; Accepted: November 25, 2014; Published: December 02, 2014

Abstract

This paper presents a case of a late discovery of a motorcycle accident victim. The fact that the remains were almost skeletonized required the input of several disciplines in order to identify the victim. Therefore, anthropology, odontology, facial reconstruction, and genetics were employed. It was found that the victim was male, between the ages of 35 to 55 with a number of healed fractures. In addition, perimortem trauma with a pattern that was consistent with a motorcycle accident was found in the head and upper body regions. Dental findings included a tooth out of alignment with the rest of the dental arcade, as well as a heavily decayed tooth that was replaced by a dental bridge. Both of these findings were supported by ante mortem photographs of the victim. A two-dimensional facial reconstruction was carried out and produced a very good likeness of the deceased. The above findings were confirmed by DNA analysis that matched a bone sample to those of the family of the deceased. This case illustrates the benefits of combining several different methods to make an initial assessment of a case and narrow the list of potential candidates. This can help speed up the process of identification and save resources for law enforcement agencies.

Keywords: Forensic anthropology; Forensic dentistry; Facial reconstruction; Motorcycle accident; Identification

Introduction

The identification of human remains is a vital element of the medico-legal investigation of death. Ideally the investigation will employ a multidisciplinary approach, especially when the remains are decomposing, skeletonized, or otherwise unrecognizable [1-3]. By providing specific information about the remains, the forensic anthropologist can help law enforcement agencies to construct a biological profile of the victim. This information can be matched to a missing person’s file, leading to a positive identification.

The present case demonstrates how forensic anthropology can be incorporated in to the broader field of death investigation and help establish the identification of human remains in a case of a motorcycle accident. It also exemplifies how forensic specialists from different disciplines can work together to achieve a personal identification.

Case Presentation

A mostly disarticulated human skeleton was found in a shrubby area alongside a provincial road to the town of Chalcis in central Greece. According to the police report, the skeleton was found under a large motorcycle which had evidence of damage on the front end, most likely caused by an impact when it veered off the road. All the skeletal elements were recovered in the immediate vicinity of the motorcycle, while the skull was found within the protective helmet worn by the victim. In addition to the skeletal elements, several articles of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans, a leather belt, a pair of socks with foot bones inside and shoes was also found in the area. It is surprising that the body had not been discovered earlier by passing motorists, as this is a relatively busy road, used by many vehicles every day. Following recovery by police, the remains were transferred to the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at the University of Athens Medical School for evaluation.

Anthropological analysis

The anthropological analysis revealed that the remains originated from a 35-55 year old Caucasian male, with a living stature of approximately 180-186 cm. The morphological assessment of the pelvis and skull indicated that the remains belonged to a male. The age was based upon the morphology of the pubic symphysis, the auricular surface, and the sternal 4th rib end [4-6]. Caucasian traits included a narrow nasal aperture, sharp nasal sill, and parabolic palate [7]. The stature was derived from the left femur using a regression formula developed by Trotter [8]. Antemortem pathologies included healed fractures of the nasal bones, the left 5th and 6th ribs, and the left fibula which was internally fixed by two surgical screws (Figure 1). Perimortem trauma was observed on the skull, vertebrae, thorax and shoulder girdle, which is consistent with a motorcycle accident. Depending on the environmental conditions during the postmortem interval and from the soft tissues remaining over the bones, it was roughly estimated that the remains had been exposed for at least three years.