One of my earliest memories of working death scenes goes back to my days in training. A man had gone to the edge of the patio in his backyard, placed the butt of a 12-gauge shotgun against the ground, bent over the shotgun with the barrel at the bridge of his nose, and pulled the trigger.

The receipt for the shotgun was found in the man’s wallet and indicated that he had purchased the shotgun that very morning using his credit card. A suicide note was recovered from inside the house. It referenced the man’s failing health and his unwillingness to become a burden on his family. The butt of the weapon had stamped a depression into the ground when it was fired.

As for the circumstances of the death, there wasn’t anything too remarkable. I would estimate that I’ve probably worked dozens like it. Still, there was one particular aspect of this scene that makes it stand out in my memory. I was amazed at how far skull fragments could travel as the result of a shotgun wound.

Prior to that particular scene, I had already been exposed to the devastating effects a shotgun can have on a body. I had seen skull fragments embedded in walls and ceilings. I had seen brain matter ricochet off a bathroom mirror and land in the hallway. I had even seen an eye connected only by its optic nerve. But all these situations involved an injury indoors. It wasn’t until the gentleman shot himself outdoors that I was able to fully comprehend the force involved.

As I said, the man shot himself at the edge of his patio. The weapon was presumably perfectly perpendicular to the ground. The arrangement of skull fragments and brain matter in a 360-degree area around the body gave me the impression that the initial blast must have resulted in a mushroom cloud-like distribution about the yard. The house was a single story ranch style home, and to my amazement there were fragments that had landed on top of the house despite the fact that the edge of the patio was a good twelve feet from the edge of the roof.

After examining the body in the backyard, it was time to go about the task of collecting as much of the shattered fragments of bone and tissue as possible. I was on my way back to the car to get a biohazard bag to place them in when I noticed a fairly sizeable skull fragment that was in the front yard near the street—at least forty feet from where the shot was fired.

I returned to the fragment with my biohazard bag and collected it. Still marveling at the force put forth by the shotgun, I canvassed the area collecting other fragments in what must have appeared to others to be some morbid version of an Easter egg hunt.


1 Response to “”

  1. 1 Stacy
    April 24, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    I like this one. I think this stuff is so interesting. I actually want to be a coroner. I’m in school for criminal justice right now. I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to use this in my research paper for my comp one class.

    Not at all. Good luck with your paper.–A Douglas

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