The determination of time of death, or the interval between the time of death and when the body is found (i.e., postmortem interval), can only be estimated unless there is a witness or a watch breaks during the traumatic incident. The longer the time since death, the greater the chance for error in determining the postmortem interval. There are numerous individual observations which, when used together, provide the best estimate of the time of death. The examiner must check the following: rigor mortis, livor mortis, body temperature, and decompositional changes. A thorough scene investigation is necessary. The environment is the single most important factor in determining the postmortem interval.
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