Human Remains Analysis

Dr. Snow is an expert in the analysis of the biological profile of decomposed, mummified, burned, skeletonized, incomplete, commingled, and fragmentary remains.  He can quickly determine whether bones are human and whether they are forensically significant, which can save law enforcement many hours at the scene.

If the remains are found to be human and forensically significant, Dr. Snow then determines the biological profile, which includes the sex, ancestry, age at death, and physical stature of the individual. He has found that many human remains are unidentified because of an inaccurate assessment of sex, ancestry, or age.

Identifying Human Remains

Some years ago, Dr. Snow was asked to examine the skeletal remains of an individual whose remains had been found near a rock quarry three years previously. The bones were thought to be those of an elderly white male, but years later this individual was still unidentified. Law enforcement believed they could belong to an elderly white male who disappeared from a nearby nursing home shortly before the remains were found.

Upon examining the remains, Dr. Snow discovered that not only were the remains not those of the elderly male from the nursing home, but they were not those of a male. Examination of the skeletal elements revealed that they were those of a much younger female.

Dr. Snow is often called on to estimate time since death, as well as trauma, including gunshot wounds, sharp force trauma, blunt force trauma, and reconstruction of fragmentary remains. He uses a variety of methods to identify the remains, including individualizing characteristics, radiographic comparisons, and DNA sampling. Learn more about his cases.

Identifying Trauma

Recently, Dr. Snow was asked to examine the decomposed/mummified remains of an individual who had been found in a canyon in the western United States. Finding no trauma, the medical examiner classified both the cause of death and manner of death as undetermined. While removing tissue from the neck area, Dr. Snow observed a greenish-blue staining and fragmentation on one of the neck vertebrae. Greenish-blue staining is often associated with the oxidation of copper.

Upon further examination, Dr. Snow found a small fragment of a copper jacketed bullet embedded in the vertebra as well as a small chip from a front tooth. This individual had been shot in the mouth, chipping the tooth, and a small portion of the jacket had embedded itself in the vertebra. The manner of death was then changed from undetermined to homicide.