“Blood Bath�

The presence of blood at a scene doesn’t always indicate a traumatic death. Many times when a person dies face down, their body “purges� a small amount of watery, bloody discharge. Other times, an even larger amount can be present. Unfortunately for death scene investigators, first responders—be they police, paramedics, or family members—perceive blood to be a sure sign of foul play. In these cases, a scene investigation is required to determine the source of the blood.

When I first started, one of the smaller police departments in the area discovered a bloody scene while conducting a welfare check on an older gentleman. Being a smaller department, they were going to have to call in the state police to conduct their scene investigation. I was already in the area, so I offered to stop by and see what I thought before they made the call. Even with my limited experience at that time, I knew my impression of “a lot of blood� differed from an officer’s impression. My plan was to go in and have a look around without altering the scene. If I saw anything alarming, I would back out and wait for the scene investigators to arrive.

Upon my arrival, I was informed that the gentleman was on the floor of the master bath in front of his vanity. According to the officers, there was blood everywhere—on the body, on the walls, on the sink, on the mirror, on the floor—everywhere. I walked through the house and into the bathroom expecting to find a little blood here and there. As the bathroom came into view I saw how inaccurate the officers had been.

There was twice as much blood as they had described. Not even the muting effect of the wallpaper pattern could hide the blood that covered it. I did my best to shake of my astonishment and focus on the matter at hand. A common pitfall for any scene investigator is to focus on the obvious and consequently overlook the less obvious.

The face, shirt, and hands of the gentleman were covered with blood but I couldn’t see any obvious signs of injury to any of those areas. The mirror appeared to be covered with high velocity blood spatter similar to that resulting from high velocity firearm injuries. I discounted the possibility that such a firearm had been used because the mirror was intact and the damage to the body would have been much more devastating. I also knew that expectorated (coughed up) blood was often similar in appearance to high velocity blood spatter.

The bowl of the sink seemed to be covered in blood as well, forcing me to consider that the gentleman had severed a neck vein. Judging from the apparent absence of any razors and the presence of the electric razor on the sink, I discounted that possibility as well. There was also blood in the adjoining room where the toilet and tub were located. The significance of that observation was that the gentleman had lost blood in two areas signifying that he was alive long enough to move from point A to point B.

I felt pretty certain at that point that the death hadn’t resulted from foul play, so I decided to examine the body more closely. When I lifted the shirt, I saw markings on his chest that outlined the treatment field for his radiation therapy. As it turned out, the gentleman’s cancer caused a sudden onset of hemorrhage into his airway causing him to cough up large amounts of blood. The experience served as a good example of how a natural death can initially give the appearance of a violent death.


7 Responses to “”

  1. 1 MJ
    March 29, 2005 at 2:16 pm

    Hi, just surfed in from BlogExplosion. I found your post to be really interesting. I’ve blogmarked you so that I can come back later.

  2. March 29, 2005 at 5:24 pm

    Having always been intrigued by forensics and an avid reader of true crime, a friend sent me the link to your blog. I have added it to my feeds and have become a regular reader. I hope to get a chance to read the archives soon. Thank you for sharing your stories and knowledge.

  3. 3 Di
    March 29, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    The same can be said for sick animals. In the veterinary field, when an animal dies in the vet surgery after having been in their care for days, foul play is hardly an option. The natural death of an old or sick pet can lead to massive blood loss as well, so I nderstand where you are coming from.

  4. March 29, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    Wow…this is a really interesting blog. I’ve always had a small interest in forensic studies, and love watching shows like CSI ro see how they will recreate a crime that was committed. It’s just truly fascinating stuff. I’ll be back to your blog and add it to my links soon. 🙂

  5. March 30, 2005 at 10:40 am

    I ventured in here via BE myself, and am so glad you did. Great read!!

  6. March 31, 2005 at 9:57 pm

    what an amazing profession you are in….

  7. April 3, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    OMGosh. It makes me weak and dizzy just reading about it. Thank heavens the family didn’t find him (I hope). It isn’t fair that a person can’t sort of arrange themselves as they die and do a quick cleanup (makeup, brush teeth, style hair and maybe change clothes for maximum attractiveness) during the process.

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