• Logo
  • SBMUJournals

An Unusually High Blood Alcohol Level in a Burnt Child Homicide Victim

Masoud Ghadipasha, Maryam Akhgari




Background: Alcohol detection is one of the most prevalent requests in forensic toxicology laboratories for medico-legal investigation. Interpretation of analytical toxicology results is important in deciding the cause and manner of death. The aim of the present case report is to introduce an unusually high blood alcohol level in a homicide victim and interpretation of analytical toxicology results considering crime scene investigation.
Case Presentation: In the present study, we report a case of a burnt body on which autopsy examination and forensic toxicology analyses were carried out. Autopsy examination showed several stab wounds in the neck and thorax regions. Forensic toxicology analysis results showed 1055 mg/dL ethanol and 71 mg/dL methanol in right heart blood using headspace gas chromatography. The leading cause of death was stab wounds. Burning seemed to be a tool for covering up the homicide. Use of alcoholic fire accelerant and contamination of the corpse with alcohol was the main reason to detect high blood alcohol levels.
Conclusion: It is essential to determine ethanol in different sampling sites to reach a reliable and scientific interpretation of analytical toxicology results. Also, some important factors such as crime scene investigation should be considered in the interpretations of unusual forensic toxicology results.


Criminal burning, Postmortem examination, Forensic toxicology, Alcohol, Cause of death


United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Global study on homicide. Vienna: United Nations Publication; 2013.

Tümer AR, Akçan R, Karacaoğlu E, Balseven-Odabaşı A, Keten A, Kanburoğlu C, et al. Postmortem burning of the corpses following homicide. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 2012; 19(4):223-8. [DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2012.01.001]

Fanton L, Jdeed K, Tilhet-Coartet S, Malicier D. Criminalburning. Forensic Science International. 2006; 158(2-3):87-93. [DOI:org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2005.04.040] [PMID]

Athanaselis S, Stefanidou M, Koutselinis A. Interpretation of postmortem alcohol concentrations. Forensic Science International. 2005; 149(2-3):289-91. [DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2003.04.001]

Bohnert M, Werner CR, Pollak S. Problems associated with the diagnosis of vitality in burned bodies. Forensic Science International. 2003; 135(3):197-205. [DOI:10.1016/S0379-0738(03)00214-7]

Caughlin JD. An unusual source for postmortem findings of methyl ethyl ketone and methanol in two homicide victims. Forensic Science International. 1994; 67(1):27-31. [DOI:10.1016/0379-0738(94)90408-1]

Hwa HL, Pan CH, Shu GM, Chang CH, Lee TT, Lee JC. Child homicide victims in forensic autopsy in Taiwan: A 10-year retrospective study. Forensic Science International. 2015; 257:413-9. [DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.10.020]

Odell MS, Young GR. Apparent elevated blood alcohol due to laboratory artefact: A potential cause of misinterpretation. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 2016; 44:27-8. [DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2016.08.007]

Kugelberg FC, Jones AW. Interpreting results of ethanol analysis in postmortem specimens: A review of the literature. Forensic Science International. 2007; 165(1):10-29. [DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2006.05.004] [PMID]

Laurens JB, Sewell FJJ, Kock MM. Pre-analytical factors related to the stability of ethanol concentration during storage of ante-mortem blood alcohol specimens. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. 2018; 58:155-63. [DOI:10.1016/j.jflm.2018.06.003]

Helmenstine AM. What Is denatured alcohol or ethanol? [Internet]. 2018 [Updated 2018 March 23]. Available from: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-denatured-alcohol-p2-603999

Wikipedia. Fire accelerant [Internet]. 2018 [Updated 2018 May 6]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_accelerant

Akhgari M, Baghdadi F, Kadkhodaei A. Cyanide poisoning related deaths, a four-year experience and review of the literature. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences. 2016; 48(2):186-94. [DOI:10.1080/00450618.2015.1045552]

Ferrari LA, Giannuzzi L. Assessment of carboxyhemoglobin, hydrogen cyanide and methemoglobin in fire victims: A novel approach. Forensic Science International. 2015; 256:46-52. [DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.08.010]

Mc Sweeney T. Calling time on ‘alcohol-related’ crime? Examining the impact of court-mandated alcohol treatment on offending using propensity score matching. Criminology & Criminal Justice. 2015; 15(4):464-83.[DOI:10.1177/1748895814561471]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.22037/ijmtfm.v9i1%20(Winter).23486