Refined Classification System for Thermally Damaged Human Remains by Body Segment

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Elayne Pope
Chelsey A. Juarez
Alison Galloway


This article provides a comprehensive regional approach to the classification of thermal damage of soft tissue and bone by assessing the body in segments, consisting of the head, torso, arms, and legs. The changes associated with each stage are generated from over 150 bodies over 12 years with the San Luis Obispo Fire Investigation Strike Team (SLO FIST), including photographs, video, and recorded statements. Each of the six stages represents a range and is bracketed from early to advanced phases. Each stage is presented with illustrations and descriptions that focus on the overall state of the remains at each stage and the features that define the transition from one stage to the next. As photographs make it difficult to discern the critical features, this system provides scientific illustrations with written descriptions. The system is also designed to be utilized by many in the death investigation field and can be used in the field and/or in the laboratory/morgue. Worksheets for recording burn damage have also been developed and facilitate recording on both soft tissues and bones.

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