Case 1 Increased Postmortem Interval Period of Neglect

Specimens were submitted from the remains of a female, 58 years of age, who had been in home care on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, in an extended family situation (two daughters, one son-in-law, and five grandchildren). The decedent had a history of stroke with right side paralysis and only minimal contact with health care professionals. She was described as "difficult" and often remained in a wheelchair for extended periods of time, refusing to speak to family members for periods of several days. Specimens were collected at 0930 on 10 July and submitted to the laboratory for analysis. Submitted specimens consisted of 3rd instar larvae of Phaenicia sericata and egg masses of Chrysomya megacephala. The 3rd instar larvae of P. sericata indicated a mode developmental time of 50 h, based on conditions inside the house. Based on the idea that the species showing the greatest period of residence on the body is indicative of the minimum period of time since death, this indicated an onset of insect activity at approximately 0800 on 8 July. By contrast, the eggs of Chrysomya megacephala hatched at 1,400 on 10 July, indicating they had been deposited at approximately 0600 on 10 July. The family members stated that the decedent had last been seen alive at 0100 on 10 July. Examination of the body during autopsy revealed the presence of a large necrotic area on the lower back, penetrating into the abdominal cavity. Maggots of P. sericata were restricted to this area, while the egg masses of C. megacephala were recovered only from the nasal cavities. The prosecutor in this case felt that this supported the account of the family as to the possible time of death. Although the presence of the 3rd instar larvae of P. sericata indicated an instance of neglect and a general lack of care for the decedent, charges were not filed by the prosecutor. Lacking the data concerning distribution of the maggots with respect to the wound and the involvement of P. sericata in myiasis in Hawaii, the estimated postmortem interval would have been considerably longer than was actually the case. Too often, specimens are submitted by law enforcement agencies as a single collection from the remains, with no indication of location on the remains of infestations. If pre-existing infested wounds are not noted by those individuals making collections from the remains, the estimated period of time since death could be significantly in error.

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