What to expect when you reach the border of life and death. A Medical Study. — JcgregSolutions

“We characterize the testimonies that people had and were able to identify that there is a unique recalled experience of death that is different to other experiences that people may have in the hospital or elsewhere,” Dr. Parnia said, “and that these are not hallucinations, they are not illusions, they are not delusions, they are […]

What to expect when you reach the border of life and death. A Medical Study. — JcgregSolutions
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Using Hair as an Indicator of Antidepressant Use Post-Mortem via Forensic Bites

Source for header: “pharmaceuticals” by idea-saras is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

For forensic scientists, determining the cause of death is frequently fraught with uncertainties, especially depending on the state of the body and its surroundings at the time of death. Climate, animals, and duration of exposure to the elements contribute to a body’s decay in ways difficult to quantify. As a result, identifying how and when somebody passed away remains complicated. Thankfully, researchers are working to untangle all the elements that can contribute to someone’s death – including drugs. Typically, drug testing takes the form of a urine sample and conversation regarding history of drug use, whether illicit or prescribed. However, someone who is deceased is unable to provide these, so other ways of identifying drug use need to be developed.

Two labs led by Jytte Banner and Sys Stybe Johansen in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Copenhagen decided to tackle this problem. They focused on a commonly-prescribed antidepressant, citalopram. Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common class of drugs prescribed to treat depression. As antidepressant prescriptions per year tripled over the past decade to ~71 million (as of 2018), forensic experts encounter antidepressants more frequently in their toxicological screens. However, it is difficult to determine the frequency and amount of the citalopram dose – current techniques can only confirm the presence or absence of the drug in postmortem analysis.

These groups aimed to define how citalopram levels in postmortem samples could indicate use of the drug while the person was alive. This would provide valuable information regarding compliance with prescribed doses and whether there was abuse of the drug prior to death. To do this, the group used a two-pronged approach: they analyzed citalopram levels in small (~1 cm) hair segments from deceased subjects and compared them to calculated estimated daily doses. Their hypothesis was that the levels of citalopram in hair segments would directly correspond with the patient’s citalopram intake during that period of hair growth (fig. 1).

Fig 1. A graphic depicting the hypothesis of the Banner and Johansen groups. The researchers believed that small segments of hair would contain levels of citalopram that directly correlate to the amount of citalopram consumption during that hair growth period. Created by Barbara Szynal in BioRender.

However, unfortunately, they found no correlation between estimated daily citalopram dose and the amount of citalopram in the postmortem hair segments. Instead, they found a correlation between hair color and citalopram concentration-to-dose ratios. Black or brown hair in the segment closest to the skin retained higher levels of citalopram and its metabolite, demethylcitalopram, than blond hair in the same segment, regardless of dosage (Fig. 2). The researchers speculate that this may be due to metabolite presence in the oil near the scalp as well as metabolite wash-out from farther segments of hair. With more research, this information can help estimate dosage based purely on hair samples without needing to obtain pharmacy records prior to determination of cause of death. This would involve the determination of concentration-to-dose ratios for each hair color group, likely for the hair closest to the scalp. While this creates a more complex analytical scenario than using one standard concentration-to-dose ratio, it also prevents the generation of false positives or negatives based on hair color.

Fig 2. The ratio of concentration of citalopram in the hair segment closest to the skin to estimated dose. (Johansen et. al. 2022)

A technique used to accurately determine drug consumption prior to death would be an incredibly powerful tool, especially in cases where the drug is prescribed and drug abuse or neglect is suspected as the cause of death. This would allow investigators to define the cause of death with more precise, scientifically-sound means rather than gathering information via circumstantial, potentially misleading pharmacy records. The Banner and Johansen groups made important contributions to the development of such a technique, and with additional work this technique could eventually provide justice to those most in need of it.

TitleConcentrations of citalopram and escitalopram in postmortem hair segments
AuthorsKaren Rygaarda, Marie Katrine Klose Nielsen, Kristian Linnet, Jytte Banner, Sys Stybe Johansen
JournalForensic Science International
Year2022
URLhttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0379073822001797?via%3Dihub

MORE IN FORENSICBITES

Researchers searching for a way to track antidepressant usage from postmortem hair find that hair color influences drug retention more than time or length of hair.

Using Hair as an Indicator of Antidepressant Use Post-Mortem — ForensicBites

Decomposition via Forensic’s blog

After Rigor Mortis, Livor Mortis, and Algor Mortis, decomposition is the fourth sign of death. The length of time it takes for a substance to decompose varies greatly depending on the climate. In comparison to a northern climate, where the same amount of decomposition could take a week or longer, hot, subtropical areas can produce […]

Decomposition — Forensic’s blog

Variables to consider when Determining Post Mortem Blood Alcohol Levels via True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

Immediately following the release of the autopsy reports on November 19th, I contacted Thomas Mollett, a forensic investigator, fellow true crime author and friend, and asked him his opinion on Shan’anns Blood Alcohol Levels. They were found to be three times the legal limit for driving. How likely was it, I asked, that these apparently high levels were from “normal” decomposition?

SUPPLEMENTAL

Autopsy reports show Shanann Watts, daughters were asphyxiated – TimesCall

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Pathology is an extremely complex science, and many factors play into the biological processes that occur after death.

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The three basic pillars one uses to calculate whether the BAC is “normal” or not are related to:

  1. the time the body is exposed to the elements [here time of death is a factor, unknown in this case, but with a relatively short window either way]
  2. the ambient conditions of the body [temperature, humidity etc.]
  3. circumstantial evidence is also a vital tool to gauge alcohol content, including eye witnesses, Shan’ann’s drinking habits, and her appearance in the Ring camera footage when she arrived home [described but not released thus far]

During our first communication I miscommunicated to Mollett that Shan’ann’s corpse was recovered after only 48 hours, which I guessed wasn’t enough time to reflect the high alcohol levels found. This was an initial error on my part; it took closer to 70 hours for Shan’ann’s corpse to be discovered and exhumed.

Based on this initial miscommunication, Mollett also believed the BAC level was likely higher than a natural rate [which as I say, was also what I suspected].

I asked Mollett to investigate the BAC levels and I’m grateful to him for doing so in detail. Obviously part of his thorough investigation corrected the original 48 hour error.

Below is Mollet’s unabridged report on the BAC levels.

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9 COMMENTS
  • Helen

    Helen

    I think Chris tied Shanann to the bed after she fell asleep, put a pillow case over her mouth to prevent her from screaming, made sure she watched through the monitor how he smothered Bella and Celeste, and then came back to the bedroom to strangle her.

    Reply
  • BAMS13

    BAMS13
    Helen

    You’re going to get in trouble from Nick now… lol.

    Reply
  • nickvdl

    nickvdl
    BAMS13

    Bams, can I let you take it from here? I can’t always be the one cracking the whip 😉

    Reply
  • BAMS13

    BAMS13
    nickvdl

    Haha! Always happy to try and exert my low ranking power anytime. You’d think those virtual whip cracks can be heard loud and clear though. 😉

    Reply
  • Syzia

    Syzia

    Helen took it to the next level here

    Reply
  • Marie

    Marie
    Syzia

    Oh yes syzia, I agree

    Reply
  • Karen

    Karen

    Well, that report certainly cleared up so many things. Now we know. The body certainly is a fascinating animal in death as much as life. I do know that when officer Coonrod was in the kitchen he didn’t have a peek in the sink to see if there were breakfast dishes in there to find out if the kids had eaten so we couldn’t see if there was a wine glass. Nor did I see any at all throughout his whole walk through the house. Thorough report

    Reply
  • Sylvester

    Sylvester

    “Important moments at Watt’s well site” is really stunning. I hope everyone can blow it up on a computer monitor rather than a cell phone. You really get the sense of vastness of that site – miles and miles in every direction of land dotted with wildflowers. The tank battery site even seems dwarfed in proportion to the land. As the drone makes it’s lazy pass from the air you then see the sheet, hugging the scrub. Look a little closer and you see the black garbage bags. It was rather stupid of him to discard the sheet on top of the land after it had fulfilled it’s purpose to conceal and drag. Same with the garbage bags. Maybe he thought in the vastness of the land those items, like his family, would simply vanish.

    Reply
  • Karen

    Karen
    Sylvester

    Sylvester, do you know if they sent the drone out before Chris said anything or after? For the life of me, I can’t remember. Thank you kindly

    Reply

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Immediately following the release of the autopsy reports on November 19th, I contacted Thomas Mollett, a forensic investigator, fellow true crime author and friend, and asked him his opinion on Shan’anns Blood Alcohol Levels. They were found to be three times the legal limit for driving. How likely was it, I asked, that these apparently high […]

via Thomas Mollett’s Forensic Report on Shan’ann Watts’ Post Mortem Blood Alcohol Level — True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

Witness: Man Was Forced to Participate in 3 Slayings to ‘Dirty His Hands’ — TIME

Three people were strangled or smothered to death in a Kansas drug home over a rape allegation and one of the suspects was forced to participate to save his life, according to court testimony. The details about the case were revealed during a preliminary hearing that ended Wednesday with Shawnee County District Judge Nancy Parrish…

via Witness: Man Was Forced to Participate in 3 Slayings to ‘Dirty His Hands’ — TIME

Son Accused Of Dismembering, Dissolving Parents In Acid — CBS Pittsburgh

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A 28-year-old man was arrested in Louisiana on charges of killing and dismembering his parents at their Tennessee home. Joel Michael Guy Jr. was arrested Tuesday on a fugitive warrant in Baton Rouge, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said. He’s accused of killing his parents, Joel Michael Guy Sr., 61,…

via Son Accused Of Dismembering, Dissolving Parents In Acid — CBS Pittsburgh

Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

BOSTON (AP) — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez has sued a company after some of his jailhouse phone calls were apparently listened to by an unknown person. Hernandez’s lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston charges Dallas-based Securus Technologies Inc. with negligence, breach of contract, and invasion of privacy. It demands that Securus…

via Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

BOSTON (AP) — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez has sued a company after some of his jailhouse phone calls were apparently listened to by an unknown person. Hernandez’s lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston charges Dallas-based Securus Technologies Inc. with negligence, breach of contract, and invasion of privacy. It demands that Securus…

via Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

this day in crime history: April 20, 1986

Memorial to the incident in Edmond, OK036750-police-raid

On April 20, 1986, Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill went on a shooting spree in a post office in Edmonds, OK. Twenty people were shot, leaving fourteen dead and six injured. At the conclusion of his rampage, Sherrill turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. It is believed that the shooting may have been motivated by a reprimand that Sherrill had received the day before. The incident is often credited with inspiring the phrase “going postal.”

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Patrick Henry Sherrill

Wikipedia – Patrick Sherrill

Time – “Crazy Pat’s” Revenge

Nobody Move!

USPSmemorial Memorial to the incident in Edmond, OK

On this date in 1986, Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill went on a shooting spree in a post office in Edmonds, OK. Twenty people were shot, leaving fourteen dead and six injured. At the conclusion of his rampage, Sherrill turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. It is believed that the shooting may have been motivated by a reprimand that Sherrill had received the day before. The incident is often credited with inspiring the phrase “going postal.”

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Patrick Henry Sherrill

Wikipedia – Patrick Sherrill

Time“Crazy Pat’s” Revenge

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