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Thread: Bruising on Decedent

  1. #1 Bruising on Decedent 
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    Hi everyone!

    This is my first post here and I am hoping some of you intelligent people here can give me some feedback on this case. I typed out a lot of details about the scene then realized I should probably just start with the most basic question then if you all need more details I can go from there. Unfortunately, I found my fiance and child's father deceased sitting in a chair on the balcony. I woke up and noticed the door to the balcony was wide open. Then I saw him...I knew he was dead right away. I suppose this is something you can only relate to if you have also seen a dead body . My dearest loved one had a very serious drug addiction/mental health issues. My first reaction was that he had overdosed - the officials on the scene also seemed to agree. I knew his family would be in a heavy state of denial about this because they refused to acknowledge his drug problems no matter how hard I tried to get help from them. That is a whole other story that may be relevant as I go on with this. When we went to go view his body at the funeral home (just for family only), he was only covered in a blanket and I noticed and remarked how he had had a sunburn and I had told him to wear sunscreen or put the top back up on his convertible. When I said that, one of the men who worked in the funeral home brought up what he believed to be "unusual" bruising on the tops of his shoulders. Then the other man came over and started talking about it too - saying it looked like it could've come from someone's hands. The bruising was said to have occurred before he died but I had been with him and never noticed the bruises.

    His parents, who like I said were heavily in denial about the drugs, took those comments and ran with it - proclaiming immediately that someone must've killed him. They don't speak to me anymore because I wouldn't go along with their murder theories. I was there and feel I would've heard something for sure, there was no forced entry or anything like that, and I don't see how anyone could get up to the balcony. When I insisted that the medical examiner is who they would need to speak to they kept going on to me that they would just sum it up to another druggie death and not pay any attention. I knew that was ludicrous, and said I didn't agree with them and they just needed to trust in the officials to find the cause of death. I was told that I was letting a murderer get away with it and some other hostile comments. After that, they refused to speak to me anymore (so I still don't know the results of the toxicology or the cause of death) - and don't even pretend to care about our child anymore now that they know I will not say things happened that did not happen in order to get them what they want.

    They are really hell-bent on making this a homicide finding and for more reasons than I can even get into here.

    I sent some text messages to his grandmother because it is bothering me not knowing the results or what is going on. She finally talked to me but I knew she was lying about the toxicology report not being back yet (it has been 4 months and when he died we were told 4-6weeks for the results). A few weeks after this, I found out that investigators took the laptop and his cell phone following pressure from his family, and that the official cause of death is still "pending".

    We were to get married just 1 month after his death, but since I am technically not married to him I am not considered next of kin so I don't know if officials can speak to me about this or not - but I doubt it. I know my child is next of kin but my child is a minor. I am heartbroken to an extreme level and feel like I need to know what was the exact cause. His head was leaned far back over the chair when I found him (no head support)...could this cause the bruising on the tops of his shoulders? What could cause something like that - would it have to be from someone's hands? I find it extremely unlikely that someone came in and attacked him - seems I would've heard something and my fiance would've fought tooth and nail before just letting someone kill him. Autopsy was unremarkable but the bruising was noted. That is all that was noted. I know this because the results came in while his parents were still speaking to me and they let me know that.

    The only thing strange is I do remember the night before we were sitting on the front porch and he said there was a car watching the house and rushed me inside. I never saw the car though for myself. It's also strange that he didn't seem intoxicated when I went to bed but then I woke up to find him dead. However, I'm sure he could've ingested enough drugs after I was already asleep to cause an overdose. I have been through this before with him and I do know it can happen suddenly. The coroner estimated he died between 4-6am. I was heavily asleep during those hours. I feel horrible that I was so nearby to him sleeping while he was sitting out there dying ....this is killing me....I especially can't come to grips with how someone could've killed him and me not hear anything. I am a heavy sleeper but surely he would've screamed out very loudly or some loud noise out of the ordinary would've happened?

    His family are not really known for telling the truth, but if no official cause of death is made after 4 months and they agreed to look at his laptop and phone, then does that mean he really may have been murdered?!?! I had thought the officials believed it to be an accidental overdose. Do I have any rights at all to know what is going on? What do you all think about the bruising on tops of his shoulders?

    If I need to help with any other details please let me know. I have no one to talk to about this and it is killing me/driving me crazy not being in the loop on what is going on. My life froze when he died and it still feels like it just happened. I am suffering with PTSD also as a result of this situation so it's very hard for me to even discuss this at all. I finally was able to bring myself to type this out tonight because I really need some sort of answers. He was the love of my life and this is the most devastating experience to have to go through. I never lost hope in him because I knew how wonderful his potential really was but he was a very troubled person and he did have enemies.

    Thank you in advance, I appreciate any/all feedback that you can give me!


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  3. #2  
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    If the police were really investigating it as a possible homicide, I would think they would be interviewing you as a witness to how somebody could have gotten onto the balcony. Were the doors to the house locked?


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  4. #3  
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    If he was severely beaten at a time prior to returning home, it could have caused internal bleeding. He could continue to be awake and function, but really still be bleeding out.

    In other words, he doesn't need to have been killed on the balcony. The injuries that caused his death might have been inflicted elsewhere, and then later lead to his death on the balcony.

    He was probably hesitant to go to a hospital because of the drug history. And he could have used some drugs later on in the evening to reduce the pain from his injuries, which would make it so there were some drugs in his system.
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    Unfortunately because of the hysterical state of mind I was in after discovering his body, I don't remember if I had to unlock the door to let officials in the house or not. I wish I could remember this because now I can see how it might be important.

    An investigator did contact me shortly after the death with some more questions but it pertained to the hairspray can I moved off the table (thinking what in the world is my hairspray doing out here?) then walking off with it out of my head. I also found my tank top in his lap and picked that up too thinking how I wanted to keep it forever because it was the last thing he touched. It was only later that I realized those may have been important. I told his parents but they told me to just leave the items with them and they would see that the officials got those items. Later, an investigator did call me but we wondered if that may be evidence of huffing. I never knew my fiance to huff and it seems like an embarrassing thing to do for a grown man in his 30s, but I can't say I put it completely past him. The investigator seemed to agree that this was an overdose and told me he would call back if he had anymore questions. At this time, I haven't heard from them again.

    His parents tried many different tactics to try to get me to believe/say to officials that my fiance was murdered. Some of the things they told me (such as the outside lights of his other home were shot out, cars damaged, etc) I contacted his neighbor and found out they were lying and no such thing had happened. So, it seems they wanted to get to my imagination and get me believing the story myself. My own doctor later told me not to fall for it and just continue to tell the truth to everyone. That they are known to look for ways to obtain money, and that this was most likely to do with a life insurance policy, to get the weight off their own shoulders for not helping him, or God knows what - but something motivated by money. He told me people that are recently traumatized are very "suggestible" and just kept insisting that I do not listen to them and just focus on the truth and facts. He also said that once they see I am not going to perjure myself or go along with story that would benefit them, that they would fall off the face of the earth and not speak to me anymore (and he was right indeed!)

    I would think that if he had been bleeding internally that the autopsy would've picked up on this.

    If he had been beaten, seems there would've been more injury than bruises on tops of the shoulders.

    Another detail: there was an enormous amount of vomit in the bathroom. This leads me to think that he had to have overdosed. I will never understand why he didn't wake me up if he was so sick. He looked comfortable in his chair...his parents seem to think it was weird that his hands were clasped together. I don't recall seeing him sit like that but if he knew he had possibly went too far this time then could that be praying? Why would my tank top be in his lap(or hands) - I can't remember which now. I wish I would've calmed down but I was so hysterical I really don't think I was in my right mind for quite a while. It was just such a shock even though I knew his history was pretty indicative that he was likely to fatally overdose at some point.

    They think that someone held him down in the chair while he was already intoxicated and suffocated him or something. Wouldn't this have also shown on the autopsy though?

    Thanks again for any feedback. This is really distressing me very much not knowing what's going on. Do you all think I should call officials and ask what is going on or just wait and see if they contact me? His family told me they (officials) didn't want to be "bothered" and I think they don't want me to talk to them for some reason. Why would that be...?
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  6. #5  
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    First of all, please get counseling for your PTSD. The longer you delay, the longer the treatment needed for you to regain your mental health. Plus, your child needs you whole again.

    Second, as his fiancee and having babied together, you might have the right to know the details of the autopsy report, cause of death, circumstances, and other factors (drugs in his system, etc). You need to impress these facts upon the authorities.

    In any event, you should be able to obtain a copy of his — or anyone's — death certificate from the appropriate government office. It might be available from both your local city/town hall, and your state's department of vital records (or similar office).

    Third, I'm sorry that your fiance was dual-diagnosed, which complicates the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of his mental health problem(s). Often times, the person prefers to take street drugs because "the world sucks" (that is, self-medicate), than to get honest, own their mental problem(s), and take the medication for it as prescribed.

    About the bruises

    Although funeral home employees first brought the bruises to your attention, it's more important that the ME (medical examiner) saw them and mentioned them in the medical report. This is because the coloration may have occurred after medical autopsy if you relied only on the funeral home employees comments. MEs should test all "bruises" to see if they are actual bruises or livor mortis (aka postmortem lividity). Livor mortis is the pooling of the blood caused by gravity after death. In a seated position, the coloration could appear in the feet, legs, buttocks and perhaps the back of the head if extended back far enough. With the body lying on its back in the morgue, blood can also pool on the posterior portions of the body: the back of the head, the torso, and the limbs. Offhand, I don't know how or why livor mortis would occur in the tops of the shoulders based on your description of his position.

    MEs usually press with fingertips on the spots, to see if the coloration: goes away and comes back, or doesn't change. I'm sorry, I studied post mortem years ago, so I don't remember which of the responses indicates bruising or livor mortis. Anyway, if the ME's examination indicates livor mortis, the ME examines the spots no further. However, if the response indicates bruising, the ME should check underneath the bruising to determine further damage. An ME would examine under bruises by opening the skin in the area and examining the tissues, muscles, bones and organs underneath. The ME would then record any further damage in the medical report.

    If the condition of the body at the funeral home does not indicate that the ME examined under the "bruises" (that is, no stitched up openings in the shoulders), then that would indicate they were livor mortis and not bruises. And yet, the ME mentioned them in the medical report and, I suppose, as "bruises". However, the ME might not have examined under bruises if the ME considered them as minor and not related to the cause of death. Perhaps this is the case here.

    Finally, the color of the bruises indicate their age. As we all can attest to, most bruises begin as red, then turn black and blue/purple within a couple days, followed by green and yellow phases over the next 10 to 15 days.

    Some questions I have about the bruises:
    • Dividing the shoulder in three equal parts, do the bruises appear over the shoulder joints, in the middle, or on/close to his neck?
    • About how many bruises per shoulder?
    • How are they situated "on top of the shoulders" — on top, or to the front and/or back, or all around?
    • What are their approximate sizes?

    Apparent Cause of Death

    As for the can of hairspray and the vomit, yes, huffing immediately came to my mind. The medical report might mention the presence of some residue etc on his face or inside his nasal passages. For what it's worth, I have met a 71-year-old white male crackhead, and I have met a handsome and strapping young man who OD'd on steroids because he thought he wasn't buff enough for his girlfriend. So, pretty much nothing would surprise me.

    Do not take the 4–6 weeks for toxicology results as gospel. If the authorities consider this death as, I'm sorry to say, a relatively minor case, and/or if the state drug lab is not big enough for the volume it handles, then the lab might give it low priority, and 4 months or more may not be unreasonable. If the regular toxicology assays (that is, the typical overdose drugs and other common toxins) reveal nothing, then the lab would need to start at square one with the hairspray, first determining its toxic contents and then testing the blood samples for them, which they might not be set up to do in-house (probably because such cases happens so rarely), and thus, send it to a contract lab, which requires more time, especially because they are not commonly done.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    jrmonroe, thank you so much for responding. I found your reply to be very insightful and helpful!

    I have put off counseling because this is so difficult to talk about and I'm skeptical about how counseling can even help me. However, I have been very unwell the last few months and know I need some sort of help. My child deserves to have a mentally sound mother. I am back living with my family so they have been a big help with my child, but they do not really understand the toll this has taken on me and my mother especially is getting increasingly impatient/angry toward me. She thinks I should be functioning better than I am. Hostility and insults have come from family members at a time I need their support the most. All around, I have found myself in a nightmare situation/life.

    It has been nearly 4 months since I saw the bruises, so I will try and answer the questions to the best of my memory:

    1. The bruises were more toward the middle but not on or close enough to the neck to indicate strangling (I do remember the men at funeral home saying that). I apologize for how uneducated I am on the human anatomy, but you know how someone might come up from behind you and start rubbing on your shoulders/near neck? That is the area they would target.
    2. It seems there was just 1 bruise per shoulder, kind of a medium sized dark purplish bruise on each side. That is how I remember it. I do recall one of the employees of the funeral home actually putting his hands on his shoulders like he was "demonstrating" how someone's hands could've been there to "hold him down" and saying it would match up with that.
    3. I don't remember if the bruise was more to the front or more to the back...at the angle I was viewing them it was like they were directly on top. So let's say I am rubbing your shoulders while you are sitting down, if I was to look down from above you that is what I would be seeing. I hope that makes sense.
    4. I recall them being medium sized and fairly dark. His father, while chastising me for letting the "murderer get away with it", said he was going to slam photos down at the sheriff's office of the pictures he had a relative take when my fiance's body was finally flown to our home state and arrived in that funeral home. He told me angrily, "WANT TO SEE THEM?! THEY ARE REAL BAD BRUISES!AND THEY HAD TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE!"etc. I take it that he is either exaggerating, or the bruises got darker or more spread by the time his body arrived at the funeral home in our home state and the photo was taken. I wouldn't even put it past them to take something like makeup and make the bruises look worse for the photos because they seem really desperate to make a homicide investigation happen. They are really into making conspiracy theories and I wouldn't put anything past them on something like this.

    Would bruising develop in a similar manner on a deceased person as it would a living person? He would've been dead for several days at least before his body made it back to home state. It seems like it was nearly a week before we got to have his funeral. There was some delay on getting his body flown back.

    What you said makes a lot of sense about the time for toxicology report. I know for a fact that opiates (prescription painkillers) are definitely going to show up. His uncle told me the investigators found a LOT of prescription pill bottles, both belonging to him and not, and he also told me cocaine was found (I had no idea this drug would've been in his possession). He also said paraphernelia was found (rolled up dollar bills, syringes, etc). Then of course there's the tank top and hairspray.

    I will try what you suggested with trying to get more information by emphasizing my relation to him. Surely they will allow me to at least get some answers. I tried to get a copy of his death certificate, but we were told there was still no cause of death determined and that I couldn't get a copy of it while it was still pending. This came from the funeral home that ended up burying him, not the first one which was in the state in which he died. They also said it was very "unusual" for it to take this long to get a cause of death.
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  8. #7  
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    You might do better on a forensics forum; try googling forensic forum murder.

    Find a counselor who specializes in PTSD, especially homicide-induced PTSD, as compared, for example, to natural events (tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, etc) or natural death (old age, diseases, etc). Different people handle trauma differently, so someone needs to help your mother understand this, and the counselor might do it.

    Also understand though, that you have painted a much-less-than stellar picture of yourself — living with, babied with, and engaged to a dual-diagnosed individual with a serious, perhaps lethal, chemical dependency; the presence of many bottles of prescription pills, which look like candy, with a young child in the house; your presence in the house when your fiance's died there; and the strange car in the street and yet you didn't call the police.

    This death in a distant state probably complicates any legal resolution. It's not easy for anyone to simply go down to the police station to answer further questions the police might have or to provide the police with any information newly-discovered by you or others.

    I looked into the death of a middle-aged mother where, at six months, the authorities had not yet determined the cause of death or issued a death certificate, and this was in Massachusetts, which has pretty good forensic labs. The medical examiner will issue a death certificate after determining the cause of death, or after concluding that the cause of death cannot be determined after exhausting all reasonable possibilities. By reasonable possibilities, I mean that they probably won't test for the presence of tetrodotoxin from pufferfish or some deadly substance from a rare poisonous frog of the Amazon. Authorities need to draw a line somewhere at what they consider reasonable.

    Bruising

    A "bruise" refers to the presence of blood near the skin outside of blood vessels without the skin rupturing. It can occur from damage to tissue or vessels directly under the discoloration, which occurs with most bruises, or the discoloration can appear at a location but the actual damage occurred elsewhere. For example, the second kind can occur if you sprain your ankle, damaging tissues and/or vessels at the ankle, but the blood runs down and collects in the toes and causes discoloration there. Here's an example of this. A vacuum can also cause bruising (keep reading).

    If bruised while alive, the blood pressure would cause the blood to exit vessels much more quickly and to a greater extent. After death, bruising occurs much more slowly and to a lesser extent due to the lack of blood pressure because the heart has stopped beating.

    I can't imagine blood pooling in the same way on both shoulders due to injuries elsewhere. Violent strikes to both shoulders don't make much sense either, except for his head being slammed through the spacing in a fence or similar structure, like a stanchion, but this would risk obvious damage to the head/ears as well as under the bruises, which weren't present.

    However, these bruises, their locations, and the apparent lack of damage to tissue, muscles, etc underneath oddly point to a well-known cause — hickeys. This may explain why the ME didn't examine them further. But suggesting that they are hickeys probably doesn't make much sense or bring you any closer to resolving the circumstances of his death and probably raises more questions than it answers.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    I wouldn't allow the child to live with him until I was sure he was going to get treatment so no, the child was not present. No drugs around "like candy" around a child or anything of the sort! I was very adamant about protecting the child and I did not live with him at the house in which he died at that time. I had actually left him just prior, but he had convinced me to come to the house and see him - and he did have an appointment at a clinic to receive help for his chemical dependency. I was worried about him and in the end I agreed to go see him - but like I said, it's too much on the personal end to really go into here and not really my question. I was only there for a few days before this happened. I don't want to get into all the details of the personal situation because I don't want this to be too identifying, but there is a lot of history there that would answer those questions. I would NEVER allow a young child around the presence of drugs like that! It was a source of fighting between us because I wanted him to recover before having the child in his supervision and he did not see what the problem was really.

    The drugs found were also hidden - I did not see them - besides a few of his prescriptions on his nightstand. The ones he was supposed to take.

    As for the car outside the house - I looked out there and I did not see a car. Hence, my confusion and why I couldn't see calling the police. I did not see the car he said he saw.

    The PTSD is from discovering the body and everything that occurred following that. Are you suggesting I have PTSD from being exposed to a homicide that I have no memory of or something to that extent? I'm not sure I understand.

    If he had been suffocated, as his family hypothesizes, would that have not shown on the autopsy?

    The bruises did not look anything like hickies. Too far from the neck. It sounds like we may never know what happened, based on what you have said.
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    Also - his family wanted to fight me on the insisting upon his recovery before I would either marry him or allow the child in his presence. They were enablers until the end to a massive extent. I think they just didn't want the stigma of chemical dependency and mental illness and were in either heavy denial or were stubborn in thinking these kinds of problems are either not a big deal or can resolve on their own. My fiance was not the "type" of person you might imagine in your mind as having these kinds of difficulties. He was highly intelligent and a very wealthy man. I am also highly educated (beyond a master's degree) and have had a successful career, so we are not the "typical" type of person this story might bring to mind for others. I am certainly not a perfect person, but are you saying that how I may be perceived may be why his parents do not want me to contact officials and why they haven't contacted me since the follow up about the possible inhalant?

    Thank you again in advance for your responses, they are very good. If you need to know more personal details that might be identifying (and that I wouldn't want to post on a public forum) I can answer in a private message - if it is needed for your analysis of the situation. I appreciate your taking the time to respond.
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    This is just fine, I don't want or need any personal details. Plus, I think I see how he may have died.

    By how you may be perceived (and I read too much into the situation), I was thinking of why your family might take a tough stance with you.

    His family simply seems in denial and looking for anyone/anything to blame instead of him.

    Actually, by your ability to handle my vocabulary and your own vocabulary and spotless spelling and grammar, I figured you as highly educated.

    Yes, chemical dependency is very democratic and knows no social or intellectual boundaries.

    Cause of death

    DISCLAIMER: Please understand about all my posts here, I am NOT a medical or legal professional, and what I have studied was mostly a long time ago.

    In answer to your question, the ME would check for suffocation and note it in the autopsy report.

    Most definitely, the authorities should be told about the hair spray can and the tank top because passing out from huffing involves something I originally overlooked (read on).

    It seems that your fiance, if he huffed and fell unconscious, left himself into a potentially lethal situation that the authorities should also be made aware of. You mentioned it yourself, but I overlooked it.

    His head was leaned far back over the chair when I found him (no head support)...could this cause the bruising on the tops of his shoulders?
    "His head [leaning] far back over the chair" may well have killed him, regardless of the bruising.

    Occlusion of the vertebrobasilar arteries

    Most people think that the brain's supply of blood arrives through the carotid arteries near the front of the neck. Much of it does. However, the blood supply for an essential part of the brain, the brain stem which regulates breathing and heartbeat, receives its blood from the brain's basilar artery which, in turn, is supplied by the left and right vertebral arteries near the back of the neck.

    The term "occlusion" refers to blockage of a blood vessel, which may occur several ways:
    • by an external force pinching it closed partially or completely,
    • by an external force tearing off the intima which lines an artery, which then continues "downstream" where it partially or completely blocks the flow of blood, or
    • by likewise tearing the intima, but only partially, thus creating a flap, which then partially or completely blocks the flow of blood.

    Let me explain a little bit about arteries. Arteries must be able to handle the high pressures produced by the heart, whereas the veins need only handle the relatively low pressures after the blood has flowed through capillaries and tissues, oftentimes where blood cells moving in single file. When I spoke of high and low pressures, I did not mean the two pressures measured by blood pressure cuffs, such as 120/80. Both of those pressures are measured of the arteries, when the heart is pushing its greatest (eg, 120) and when it is pushing the least (eg, 80).

    For arteries to handle the high pressure and the changes in pressure, evolution developed an ingenious design. Arteries have thick walls (compared to veins), and their thick walls are composed of various layers of materials. The outermost layer is very tough and not very compressible. It evolved to handle the high pressures in the arteries. The innermost layer is not so tough and is much more compressible. It evolved to handle the changes in blood pressure, even the second-to-second differences between, say, the 120 mmHg and the 80 mmHg, caused by the heart compressing and then resting.

    Arteries are vital, and you rarely find them near the surface of the body, which is, instead, where you'll find many less important veins. Evolution has buried arteries deep inside the body typically next to bones for maximum protection. For example, the descending aorta sits against the backbone in the abdomen for maximum protection. An attacking animal would need to penetrate the backbone from behind or through all the viscera from the front before getting to the aorta. It's very well protected.

    But arteries lay closer to the body's surface near joints because joints don't contain muscles or organs that would protect the arteries. Consider, for example, your wrists and knees. These joints are mostly bones, ligaments and tendons. By necessity, the arteries (and nerves) are relatively exposed. This is why we can take someone's pulse at their wrist and you can hit your "funny bone" (nerve trunk) at your elbow. The entirety of the neck is a very flexible series of joints, and most arteries, veins and nerves are highly exposed.

    Back to the vertebral arteries. Unfortunately, as I stated above, the intima can be damaged from outside forces without causing much damage to the rest of the artery's wall because it is the least tough of the wall's layers. In fact, it's even more susceptible than that. In babies, the intima has a greater tendency to stick to itself, so a baby's pulse should not be taken at its neck because doing so could cause the artery to stick shut. In the elderly, arteries can be lined with cholesterol, which likewise can cause an artery to stick shut, so likewise a elderly person's pulse should not be taken at their neck.

    Anyway... When the head is extended (ie, head back), and perhaps turned to the side, the lower back edge of the skull can pinch a vertebral artery against a vertebra, either pinching it shut, or partially or completely tearing the intima, resulting in an occlusion of the artery. Even though both the left and right vertebral arteries go under the back edge of the skull and enter the brain where they combine to form the basilar artery, the complete occlusion of one of them is almost always fatal.

    This occlusion can easily occur by the person's own actions: bow hunting, birdwatching, stargazing, yoga, turning one's head while driving in reverse, and even tilting one's head back into one of those hair washing sinks used by beauty parlors. This occlusion has acquired the nicknames of "bow hunter's stroke" and "beauty parlor stroke". When I went back and re-read what you said about his head leaning far back over the chair, beauty parlor stroke came to mind. If the body is allowed to collapse, the head and neck might return to a more neutral position, and so, blood flow would return, and it would not be fatal. However, if someone is passed out head back in a chair, the back of the chair might prevent the head and neck to return to a more normal position, and the situation may be fatal.

    Let me define some technical terms and get them out of the way. The term suffocation refers to preventing someone from breathing, usually by external mechanical obstruction, such as pillow over the face, but someone can accidentally suffocate by passing out drunk while face down in their pillow. The term choke refers to preventing someone from breathing, usually from internal mechanical obstruction, such as a small child choking on a hotdog. I see plenty of parents giving their small children hotdogs to eat without buns, and sadly, it is exactly the wrong size for them. The term strangle refers to external forces that interrupt the blood vessels, nerves, and/or airway. Three major categories exist: manual strangulation, strangulation by ligature, and mechanical strangulation. Manual strangulation is done with the hands or arms, as in holding someone in a headlock. Strangulation by ligature is done with a flexible material wrapped around the neck, as in hanging. Mechanical strangulation is done with something inflexible, such as a pair of nunchuks.

    So, if he died from occlusion of the vertebrobasilar arteries from passing out, the death certificate may call the cause of death something like occlusion of the vertebrobasilar arteries or maybe accidental mechanical strangulation and call the circumstances of death something like unconsciousness from inhaling intoxicants.

    If you didn't move him, then the medical examiner, in arriving to declare him dead, would have seen his posture as he died, so he may suspect this cause of death, but he may still be looking for a reason why he was in that position. That's why the hair spray and tank top are very important evidence.

    In conclusion, I recommend you:
    • contact the authorities investigating his death and tell them about the hair spray and tank top,
    • find an appropriate PTSD counselor and begin counseling, and
    • contact a medical examiner near you and ask him about what he thinks about all of this.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  12. #11  
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    jrmonroe, thank you so much for your reply. That possibility of cause of death had never occurred to me. It makes a LOT of sense and you have explained how that could happen perfectly and in a way that I could understand. I had assumed the posture was possibly caused from unconsciousness from intoxication (overdose of drugs and/or inhalant use), and going by his previous overdoses (where his breathing would become slowed with lots of time in between) - that he most likely died of respiratory depression, then the muscles relaxed at death causing the head to fall back and look that way. However, what you have explained has made me think of other possibilities and it does make a lot of sense! Very interesting.

    I have a few questions though and need to clarify a few things:

    When I had regained my sanity (I really think I lost it after finding him), and had time to reflect, I realized the importance of the items I had moved in my hysteria (the hairspray can and tank top). I left the items with his parents to give to authorities. I told them I concluded it could've been for no other purpose than huffing. They believed someone killed him with those items (they actually suggest someone forced him to "breathe in" hairspray until he died - someone held him down, while another person held the hairspray soaked tank top over his face). This is obviously ludicrous. Even after I told them that despite my never having huffed before, common sense would tell you "huffing" is much different than "breathing in" a substance and he couldn't have been "forced" to do that. They also had the rebuttal that with all the other drugs at his disposal, he wouldn't have bothered with something as silly as huffing a $2 can of hairspray.

    As you have stated that nothing surprises you as far as cause of death, I hate to say that even though it seems like a silly thing for him to do (and I never knew him to do it), I can't put anything past him. I also asked a friend of his about it and he told me my fiance did in fact huff gas as a teenager, but he hadn't known him to do it as an adult. I'm sure this is something that most people would want to keep hidden though!

    They told me they would report this to authorities - which they did - and then I was contacted shortly after his death (not even a week later) by officials to ask me about the hairspray can and tank top. So, officials are aware of those pieces of evidence. The investigator told me they would be able to check his blood for evidence of inhalant use from that particular product and it would show up on the toxicology findings.

    The results from the autopsy were available within days and his parents were contacted with the finding of "unremarkable." The way his father explained it to me, the ME told him there was nothing wrong with him that could be seen and now they are just to wait for the results of the toxicology. If the cause of death was what you suggested (occlusion of the vertebrobasilar arteries or accidental mechanical strangulation), wouldn't that have been told to his parents when he called with the findings? That wouldn't have led to a finding of "unremarkable" would it? The funeral home employees told us the bruises on the shoulders were noted on the autopsy report but made no mention of anything like this being noted.

    I could see how the toxicology could be taking longer because toxins found in the hairspray aren't typically tested for (something you had explained previously), which does make sense as to why it is taking so long.

    What I don't understand is why the officials would later take his laptop and cell phone to go through. Does this indicate they are suspicious of foul play now (even though in the beginning they determined there was no foul play - as indicated in news articles), or are they humoring the parents and agreeing to take them (his parents wanted them to - believe me when I say they are filled with conspiracy theories and murder is what they insist. They also take on a very bullying demeanor, and no doubt they have also threatened this sheriff's department with threats of litigation). Could this also be cause for the delays? Perhaps because they want to make extra sure everything is accurate in the case of being sued by his notoriously litigious family?

    On your 3rd point in conclusion, do you think it would be reasonable for me to contact the actual ME that handled my fiance's case and ask him about this, including your suggestion of cause of death and get his feedback? Perhaps I should talk to him first, then contact officials and see if they will speak to me about the case if need be.

    What do you think?
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  13. #12  
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    I would take the term "unremarkable" literally to mean "not remarkable", as in "within the range of what's considered normal". It reminds me of the standard medical term "WNL" ("within normal limits") used, for example, for values obtained from direct contact (BP check, pulse, temp, etc) to lab test results (blood concentration levels for various things). I have seen "Normal" also used in autopsy reports. I have usually encountered it as a unit by unit description — Left arm: Normal. Right arm: Normal. Head: Normal. Torso: Normal. Maybe this other state uses "Unremarkable" when everything is unremarkable.

    Threats of litigation. Yes, authorities would probably want to make sure they crossed every t and dotted every i, and maybe have someone double or triple check it.

    Someone should suggest an occlusion of the vertebrobasilar arteries to the ME, or someone should make sure that the ME checked for it. The ME probably would have checked for this because even doctors were causing these occlusions to their patients on rare occasions when they would perform a certain technique of cervical manipulation (long since banned) to relieve neck pain, and sometimes it would cause death. It would cause adverse results about once for every 40,000 manipulations (from all techniques), and when a manipulation did cause adverse results, it had a 2% chance of killing the patient.

    For your own peace of mind, you could also talk with a local ME, who is not involved in this case, and as a disinterested expert, could give you unbiased answers about occlusions (and who could tell you far more about them that I can).

    One thought is, what if the ME didn't check for this? The ME might say that he checked when he really didn't. Or, if he wanted to be honest about not checking it, it would mean another autopsy. I'm guessing that an ME would not want to suggest that a second autopsy was necessary unless it would make a huge difference because it would make him look incompetent. So, if he didn't check but says that he did, then ... (continue reading).

    If the drug tests come back positive, who really knows what else was in those street drugs that might have caused his death? For example, some heroin makers/dealers have recently been adding some of the super-powerful opioid Fentanyl into their heroin to give their product a little extra something. It might give their dope some extra pizzazz, but it's causing overdoses and deaths. Likewise, it is not uncommon for coke makers/dealers to add some meth (ie, methamphetamine, which is a stimulant) into their cocaine (which is another stimulant) to give it a little extra something. It's simply business, and the drug makers/dealers want customers to come back and buy their stuff instead someone else's. So, the ME might give the cause of death as something about respiratory or cardiac arrest due to a drug overdose. If you think about it, this conclusion would cover various possibilities, including the occlusion.

    As for huffing, drug addicts do have their "drug(s) of choice", and his may have included huffing. Or he may have felt nostalgic about huffing, and so he huffed. A few drug addicts have told me that they have been chasing (ie, trying to re-enact) that first original high from way back when, but were never able to repeat it.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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