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Besides rigor mortis, what are other clues for time of death?

Rigor mortis sometimes can help provide a general idea of when someone died, but forensic pathologists use other indicators to help provide a greater certainty as to time of death. They include:

  • Body temperature: The cooling rate for a body is about 1.5 to 2 degrees per hour. If a body registers around 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33.33 degrees Celsius), it has been dead for about four hours.
  • Stomach contents: Examiners can gauge how long someone lived after eating by determining the degree of digestion of the person's last meal.
  • Insect activity: Forensic entomologists can help determine how long a body has been dead because flies gather around the eyes, mouth and other body openings to feed on the body's fluids. Forensic entomologists can observe the flies, as well as the flies' eggs and larvae, to help estimate time of death.

Without an eyewitness, investigators can only provide an estimated time of death.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.