Other Aspects of Internal Wound Track Examination

The deeper soft tissue and bone, if involved, need to be explored and sampled to determine the presence of soot (16,57,59,141). This is helpful in the determination of range, particularly if a multishot suicide has occurred. Soft tissue, such as muscle, can be stained bright red because of the expulsion of carbon monoxide from the muzzle (Fig. 30; ref. 16). In certain instances (e.g., tear gas cartridge), the track can be crepitant (93).

The direction of the wound track in relation to the deceased must be documented (101). The trajectory can favor self-infliction (37,51). A track extending anteriorly (back to front) or downward from the right temple is uncommon in suicide (37,51). An intraoral wound, which has a track directed up, favors suicide. A track extending horizontally or down suggests a homicide (51,137,140). Self-inflicted chest wounds can be up, down, or horizontal, but left-to-right tracks are unusual (51,55,59,105). Unusual trajectories require reconstruction based on different body positions (209). Apparent hunting accidents, masking suicides, have contact wounds (see Heading 5. and ref. 16). If the victim is bent over the rifle or shotgun, then the wound track is down (16). Depending on whether the victim rotates counterclockwise with the right hand or clockwise with the left hand to reach the trigger of the long gun, the track passes to the victim's left or right, respectively.

Recovery of an intact bullet allows a match of its rifling marks to the fired weapon (16). Care must be taken not to handle a relatively soft lead projectile with metal instruments, which can alter the rifling marks. If the bullet is partly jacketed, rifling markings on the jacket are better defined than those on the softer lead core (Fig. 40; ref. 16).

Fig. 48. Contact gunshot wound of head. (A) Periorbital hematomas (arrows) indicative of orbital plate fractures. (B) Orbital plate fractures (arrows).

Although shotgun barrels are smooth-bored, finding shotgun wadding provides a determination of the gauge of the weapon and the make of the ammunition (Fig. 9; ref. 16). Pellets can number in the hundreds, and only a representative number are collected for evidence (Fig. 9). Bullets do fragment, reducing their evidentiary value (e.g., .22 caliber bullets are less likely to be identified with a specific weapon); however, recovered fragments can be linked, by compositional analysis, to known bullets fired by a suspect gun (16,63). The degree of bullet deformation and fragmentation depends on the location of the wound (e.g., head [63]). Fragmentation of a bullet creates multiple wound tracks (176,210).

Fig. 49. Intracranial bullet ricochet. (A) Near contact gunshot wound of right temple. (B) Radiograph of skull showing path of bullet fragments (arrow) from entry site along wound track. Large bullet fragment on left skull base (arrowhead).

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