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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • balcony;
  • cliff;
  • fall;
  • run;
  • jump;
  • throw

ABSTRACT: Two case studies are presented involving fatal falls of adult females from a height. One involved a launch at low speed from a balcony, and one involved a launch at high speed from the top of a cliff. Crime scene evidence obtained on the balcony itself provided a strong indication of homicide, but subsequent investigation showed that the fall was accidental. No crime scene evidence was obtained for the cliff fall since the fall initially appeared to be just another suicide from a popular suicide spot. Subsequent investigations indicated homicide based on measurements of cliff height, horizontal distance to the impact, and available runup distance, plus measurements of possible run, jump, and throw speeds. It was found that a female weighing 61 kg (134 lb) can be thrown at speeds up to 4.85 m/s by a strong male, more than enough to account for the estimated launch speed (4.5 m/s). Given the available 4.0 m runup distance, it was found that women of better than average rather than elite athletic ability can dive at speeds of about 3.5 m/s or jump feet first at speeds of about 4.0 m/s, both being less than the estimated launch speed. The decedent had no athletic ability and landed head first after falling through a height of 29 m.