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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • time of death (TOD);
  • heat transfer;
  • heat conduction;
  • finite element model;
  • heat transport in human eye;
  • temperature plateau effect (TPE);
  • postmortem cooling curve

Abstract

The goal of this work was to compare human temperature decay curves generated from execution of a COMSOL Multiphysics® finite element software model with that of experimental postmortem temperature decay curves. Experiments were performed in 10 human cadavers. The postmortem temperature was continuously measured in human eyeballs and rectums from c. 3 h up to 15 h postmortem. Model-generated curves reflected experimental curves for 10 cases with coefficients of determination ranging from 0.9448 to 0.9953. From modeling efforts, normalized temperature decay curves were generated to aid first responders to estimate time of death within the early postmortem period of 0–24 h. This proposed model has advantages over other models in that it is applied to the human eyeball, where temperature plateau effects are minimal to nonexistent. Nevertheless, the proposed model can be adjusted to compensate for any temperature plateau effects that do exist. It also can take account of antemortem hyperthermia conditions that are known to have occurred. The current model only applies to natural environmental conditions, with no forced convection, no direct sunlight, immersion in water, or other unusual conditions.