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Case report: the man in the farmhouse – Effective support of entomotoxicological exams to identify causes of death

Magni, P.A., Ghizzoni, O., Linarello, P. and Gualtieri, P. (2008) Case report: the man in the farmhouse – Effective support of entomotoxicological exams to identify causes of death. In: 6th Meeting European Association for Forensic Entomology (EAFE), 20 - 24 May 2008, Kolymbari, Crete.


At the end of April 2007, a male corpse was found inside a deserted farmhouse near Agliè, a small municipality in the district of Turin. The man didn’t have any identity documents on him and his body was in advance decay stage. He was found in a empty room of the farmhouse, he was wearing many layers of winter clothes and he was huddleded up on one side, lying on a plastic curtain. On the corpse and in the room there were plenty of necrophagous insects. For this reason, beside the autopsy, forensic entomological examinations were made. From the description of physical features as well as the clothes, we assumed that he might have been a man that went missing in February 2007, from an elderly residence. He was under psychotropic treatment. The pathological exams made also by X-rays didn’t detect any fractures or lesions which might have caused his death. The toxicological exams were made on hair sample of the victim as well as larvae and pupae samples. The insects found were used for PMI estimation. Following Diptera and Coleoptera species were found: Calliphora vicina, Calliphora vomitoria, Lucilia Caesar and Fannia sp. at different instars (from III to pupae), Necrodes sp., Dermestes sp., Necrobia sp., Creophilus sp. and Coleoptera Histeridae larva e and adults. Also species of Hymenoptera Formicidae, Hymenoptera parasites and mites were found. DNA typing was made using maggot crop and some of the arm bones compared with a bath sponge the man had used in the elderly residence. The DNA of crop contents couldn’t help us probably because of the high stage of decomposition of the body, but we could confirm that the cadaver was the missing man using bones and sponge samples. The colonization interval (C.I.) dated back to the beginning of March 2007. The toxicological exams on hair samples testified that the man was an habitual user of Delorazepam, but entomotoxicological exams showed the presence of Lorazepam in larvae and pupae. The presence of Lorazepam in the insect samples allowed us to assume that the man had taken this farmaceutical treatments shortly before dying. The death caused by benzodiazepine intoxication is a rare event and it is possible only if the condition of the body is compromised by other pathological situation, using anti-depressive medicine and alcohol. In this case, due to the condition of the corpse, it wasn’t possible to have information about the alcoholemy, but it could not be excluded. The body position in which the corpse was found and the presence of the drug allowed us to suppose that the man had died as a consequence of significant benzodiazepine intoxication happened before the death, characterized by an initial phase of lethargy, and followed by coma.

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