Nonterrorist Suicidal Deaths Involving Explosives

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Suicidal deaths involving explosives unconnected to terrorism are rare. The investigation of deaths from explosive devices requires a multidisciplinary collaborative effort, as demonstrated in this study. Reported are 2 cases of nonterrorist suicidal explosive-related deaths with massive craniocerebral destruction. The first case involves a 20-year-old man who was discovered in the basement apartment of his father’s home seconds after an explosion. At the scene investigators recovered illegal improvised power-technique explosive devices, specifically M-100s, together with the victim’s handwritten suicide note. The victim exhibited extensive craniofacial injuries, which medicolegal officials attributed to the decedent’s intentionally placing one of these devices in his mouth. The second case involves a 46-year-old man who was found by his wife at his home. In the victim’s facial wound, investigators recovered portions of a detonator blasting cap attached to electrical lead wires extending to his right hand. A suicide note was discovered at the scene. The appropriate collection of physical evidence at the scene of the explosion and a detailed examination of the victim’s history is as important as documentation of injury patterns and recovery of trace evidence at autopsy. A basic understanding of the variety of explosive devices is also necessary. This investigatory approach greatly enhances the medicolegal death investigator’s ability to reconstruct the fatal event as a means of separating accidental and homicidal explosive-related deaths from this uncommon form of suicide.

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