Dismemberments by Chainsaw: A Review of the Literature

Sometimes, I wonder if I should have gone into medicine instead of law. I can’t decide if the following articles confirm or deny that suspicion. From the Journal of Forensic Psychology, we have:

Blood and tissue spatter associated with chainsaw dismemberment.

Randall B.

Department of Pathology, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Sioux Falls, SD 57103, USA. fornsix@aol.com

In response to the unexpected paucity of blood/tissue spatter at the site where a body of an adult woman was dismembered by an electric chainsaw, we dismembered two large pig carcasses with a small electric chainsaw in a controlled environment. These experiments demonstrated first that a large carcass could be easily dismembered by a small electric chainsaw. When the chainsaw bar is held parallel to the ground the majority of the blood and tissue is deposited directly beneath the saw and bar and very little elsewhere. If the discharge chute of the saw however is not oriented directly at the ground, larger amounts of blood and tissue may be sprayed on lateral surfaces or deposited some distance from the chainsaw. The characteristic striations created on the surface of wood as it is cut by a chainsaw can also be found on bony surfaces cut by a chainsaw.

Death caused by a chain saw–homicide, suicide or accident? A case report with a literature review (with 11 illustrations) has a disturbing conclusion. And/or it was ripped from the plot of a CSI episode. (Sadly, the illustrations are locked behind a pay wall).

Reuhl J, Bratzke H.

Center of Forensic Medicine, University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

A 31-year-old farm worker was found dead beside a chain saw. Based on the testimony of a colleague and because of the situation at the site, the police very soon presupposed an accident. It was assumed that the victim had slipped on the sudden ground and had been killed by the subsequent swerving of the saw when starting the engine. The body presented with a deep lacerated wound at the right side of the nape of the neck, including the first cervical vertebra, the medullary canal and the right mandible as well as multiple fissures of the occipital bone, which were attributed to repeated forceful use of the chain by another person. A second wound with relatively sharp edges and a tangential fissure in the corresponding area of the skull raised the suspicion that an axe or some similar device had been used. Although the forensic medical findings seemed to give clear evidence of external violence, no further investigations have been carried out so far by the authorities.

And Unusual suicide with a chainsaw.

Tournel G, Dédouit F, Balgairies A, Houssaye C, De Angeli B, Bécart-Robert A, Pety N, Hédouin V, Gosset D.

Faculté de Médecine de Lille, Institut de Médecine Légale et Sociale, 59045 Lille Cedex, France. gilles.tournel@univ-lille2.fr

Described here is a case of suicide with the use of a chainsaw. A female suffering from schizophrenia committed suicide by an ingenious use of a chainsaw that resulted in the transection of her cervical spine and spinal cord. The findings of the resulting investigation are described and the mechanism of suicides with the use of a chainsaw is reviewed. A dry bone study was realized to determine the bone sections, the correlation between anatomic lesions and characteristics of chainsaw. The damage of organs and soft tissues is compared according to the kinds of chainsaw used.

“Ingenious use.” Well, credit where credit’s due, I guess.


1 thought on “Dismemberments by Chainsaw: A Review of the Literature

  1. Suicide by chainsaw? Well, that’s a new use, though not really what the big producers have in mind… And cutting up pig carcasses to analyse spatter patterns, I would have never imagined people spending time doing that… the joys of forensics

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