Skeletal Identification by Radiographic Comparison: Blind Tests of a Morphoscopic Method Using Antemortem Chest Radiographs§

Authors

  • Carl N. Stephan Ph.D.,

    1. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Central Identification Laboratory, 310 Worchester Avenue, Building 45, Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853.
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  • Allysha P. Winburn M.A.,

    1. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Central Identification Laboratory, 310 Worchester Avenue, Building 45, Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853.
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  • Alexander F. Christensen Ph.D.,

    1. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Central Identification Laboratory, 310 Worchester Avenue, Building 45, Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853.
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  • Andrew J. Tyrrell Ph.D.

    1. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Central Identification Laboratory, 310 Worchester Avenue, Building 45, Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853.
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  • Portions of this work were presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 22–27, 2010, in Seattle, WA.

  • Supported, in part, by two appointments to the Postgraduate Research Participation Program at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command-Central Identification Laboratory, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the JPAC-CIL.

  • §

    The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the authors and are not to be construed as official, or as views of the U.S. Department of Defense and/or any of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Carl N. Stephan, Ph.D.
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Central Identification Laboratory
310 Worchester Avenue, Building 45
Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853
E-mail: carl.stephan.AU@jpac.pacom.mil

Abstract

Abstract:  This study investigated the value of antemortem (AM) and postmortem (PM) radiographs of the claviculae and C3-T4 vertebrae to identify skeletons of missing U.S. soldiers from past military operations. In total, 12 field-recovered skeletons and AM chest radiographs of 1460 individuals were used. For each skeleton, examiners analyzed an array of AM chest radiographs (up to 1000 individuals) and attempted to identify the correct PM/AM radiographic match. When examiners were able to compare all images within a single test, only true-positive identifications were made. When AM radiographs were presented one-at-a-time, in sequential order, and without examiners having knowledge of array size, erroneous identifications resulted but they were almost exclusively made by untrained examiners (accuracy = 35% vs. 90% for trained examiners). This study demonstrates the value of chest radiographs for the identification of disarticulated and even eroded skeletons, but only when methods are wielded by trained examiners.

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