Here’s How Coroners Determine The Time Of Death

Let’s assume you’re a forensic investigator and you walk into a crime scene. The time you enter the room is 08:57am. The victim’s body is right there laying on the floor. How do you determine the exact time of death?

You’ve seen this scenario countless times on movies. Well, now is the time to know the answer so you can impress your spouse the next time you see a C.S.I. episode.

Let’s find out how do they do it. (the article continues after the ad)


One way to do it is by measuring body temperature. Since the internal temperature of a given body drops at known rates, we can estimate the time of death by using this equation:

  • Celsius: 37°C – 1.5°C
  • Fahrenheit: 98.6°F – 2.7°F

This means that the body temperature loses 1.5°C or 2.7°F per hour until it reaches the temperature of the environment around it. Depending of how low this temperature is, it may take hours to be reached and usually this is a good indicator of the time of death.

However, if the body has been exposed to extreme outdoor conditions, such as a freezing cold weather, the body’s temperature drop rate will change and other calculations need to be taken into account.


When we die, a natural process starts in all of us which causes the relaxation of the body’s muscles. This process is called Rigor Mortis and because it occurs during the first 36-48 hours of death, it’s one of the most common ways of estimating the time of death. (the article continues after the ad)

Rigor Mortis usually begins from as early as 2 hours after death from the muscles of face and neck and will gradually work its way down to the body’s larger muscles. Knowing the different stages of rigor will help the coroner know how much time has passed since the victim’s vital functions have ceased.


The study of insects in forensic investigations is another way of determining the time of death. Based on the insect’s life cycle found both on the body and at the crime scene, coroners are able to establish an accurate time scale.

Insects can also be very useful in understanding several other aspects of the crime. Because insects that access a corpse colonize very rapidly, their life cycle stage and exact location can help reveal the location of the murder, whether the body had been moved or not and where it was stored.


Of course, forensic investigators always use a combination of these methods as things in a crime scene are almost never too simple. But at least now you know how they do it!

If you like what you read then you will definitely love this one: What Really Happens Inside A Dying Mind?

Copyright © I’m A Useless Info Junkie. Expand for sources and details.

Main Article Photo: Andrew / Flickr
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Time Of Death | Estimating The Time of Death | The use of insects in forensic investigations: An overview on the scope of forensic entomology

This Is The Difference Between ‘Rap’ And ‘Hip Hop’

Myth Or Fact: In Statues, The Number Of Feet The Horse Has Off The Ground Indicate How The Rider Died