Muscle Proteins and the Time of Death

03 Jul


In any homicide, one the most important things, along with the cause and manner of death, that the ME must determine is the approximate time of death. This will help eliminate some suspects—-if they are far away from the scene and with many witnesses, for example—-and point the finger at others—-who might have been in the area at the time the murder occurred.

The problem is that most methods used to determine the time of death are inaccurate at best. They tend to be best guesses. And they are mostly useful only during the first 48 to 72 hours.

Check out my article “Timely Death” for a brief overview of how the time of death is estimated.

Or grab a copy of Forensics For Dummies or Howdunnit: Forensics for an in-depth discussion of this topic.

Researchers at the University of Salzburg are working in a new method that might allow the time of death determination to be accurately made up to 10 days after death. Their research suggests that measuring the rate of muscle protein degradation yields a clue to the time that has lapsed since death. If this technique proves to be accurate and reproducible in humans, it would be a giant step forward in criminal investigations.

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5 responses to “Muscle Proteins and the Time of Death

  1. Sue Coletta

    July 3, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    I would love to republish your article that’s linked in this post, with credit to you of course and links to your books. Would this be acceptable to you? If you’d rather speak privately, you can email me at: Thanks, Sue.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      July 3, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      Of course. Spread the word.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Bland

        July 3, 2015 at 7:37 pm

        Oh, I see you have books-which one do you recommend that a “criminal profiler” read first-do you sign books paid for through *Or any other method of payment/author signing. Thank You.


      • D.P. Lyle, MD

        July 4, 2015 at 8:08 am

        I’d recommend either Forensics For Dummies or Howdunnit: Forensics.
        Not sure what you mean by books “signed through Paypal” but if you purchase the book and then send it to me I’ll sign and return it.
        If interested contact me thru my website and we will go from there.


  2. Jennifer Bland

    July 3, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Great Article, this should boost up more scientific ways to determine time of death-and many other forensic advances-a honor to be a part of a growing field of criminal justice-solving crimes/cases. I know that in a case I am researching “Grace Doe McDonald County Missouri 1990” cold case/unidentified woman-estimated time of death (about 2 months)-October-December 1990. From what I understand part of her muscle tissue was apart of the crime scene/DNA available/Dental records available/*Doe Network/Can You Identify Me.



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