Decompositional odors released from corpses in clandestine graves are providing a chemical fingerprint that could help law enforcement officials find these burial sites and provide evidence that ultimately points to the victim's killer.
A team led by Arpad Vass, a forensics expert in Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Biosciences Division, started by identifying 478 specific volatile compounds associated with burial decomposition and narrowed these down to the top 30 in order of perceived importance for finding buried bodies.
The project, begun four years ago, identifies the "odor signature" unique to human burial decomposition and could lead to improved cadaver dog training and possibly to a portable instrument that could help locate human remains.
The research, performed with assistance from the University of Tennessee's Department of Anthropology and the Anthropological Research Facility, is funded by the FBI's Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit.
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