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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • child abuse;
  • homicide;
  • toxicology;
  • battered baby syndrome;
  • domestic violence

Abstract:  We retrospectively reviewed autopsy records at a statewide medical examiner’s office in order to identify and characterize deaths due to child abuse. In a 6-year period in New Mexico, the medical examiner investigated 45 deaths determined to be child abuse-related. Decedents were predominantly male (68.9%), Hispanic White (53.3%), and all were 5 years of age or younger, with a median age of 1 year. Head injuries were the most common cause of death (44.4%), followed by battered baby syndrome (15.6%). Relatives were involved as alleged perpetrators in 80% of the cases, with the father most often implicated (36.1% of cases), and 88.9% of child abuse injuries resulting in death occurred in the family’s residence. Toxicology was positive in 26.7% of cases, but only two cases had substances of abuse present. Information on risk factors such as prematurity, parental age, and history of abuse was also collected.