I have a murder by hanging, but I want it to look like a suicide. The murderer ties a rope to the second floor stair railing, puts a noose around the victim’s neck, and tosses her over. Is there a way to confuse the medical examiner?
Most suicidal hangings are from lower heights, and the victim dies from suffocation and lack of blood flow to the brain. The victim typically has a Vee-shaped bruise on the front of the neck. Tiny broken blood vessels can be seen in the eyes and mouth.
If the killer uses a ligature to strangle the victim and then attempts to make it look like a hanging: the medical examiner would find a transverse bruise from the ligature.
If the victim dies from the strangulation, less bruising will occur from the rope. The ME would call this a homicide.
Other trauma that suggests a struggle will cause suspicion about homicide. It would be difficult to subdue a conscious adult, place a noose, and throw the victim over a railing without trauma. Injury from incapacitating the victim—head wound, for example—increases the likelihood of homicide.
The way the knot is tied and secured can give clues as well.
A hanging by the neck with a fall of more than six feet is capable of fracturing the neck. There’s a fair body of evidence on this since hanging is utilized as capital punishment in many countries. Throwing a victim off a second floor balcony is very likely to cause a fracture. Few suicides would choose this method.
Hanging from an intermediate height--such as forcing the victim to stand on a chair and then removing the chair would look like suicide. If the victim is drunk or has taken sedatives, she could be unconscious from this, making it easier to control her. It's not unusual for suicides to takes pills or alcohol.
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it. Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
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