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Wayne Township, New Jersey. This case involved an 87-year-old male who was discovered after police went to his home on a request by the man’s employer to “check on the welfare.” The victim had failed to show up for work and according to the employer, the victim was like an ox and had never missed a day of work. The police officers attempted to make contact with the resident by knocking on the doors and windows of the house but didn’t get any response. The officers also attempted to call, but there was no answer. A decision was made to force entry and the officers entered the kitchen as they called the resident’s name. As the officers entered the living room area, they saw the man.

Fig.1 An 87-year-old male was found dead after police went to his home to check up on him.

The victim was completely naked and bound from his lower legs to the midchest with three different ropes in a standing position. The ropes on the man’s legs were looped around each other from the feet up to the chest creating a crisscross pattern. Two of the ropes were looped through and connected to a wrought iron room divider in the living room. These ropes held the man in a standing position. A fourth rope was tied to the same wrought iron room divider and was around the neck of the victim. The victim’s hands and genitals were free from the bindings. There was a belt around the rope behind the man’s head and a second belt was at the victim’s feet. The rope around the victim’s neck was loose but tightened when the victim’s head was in a forward position. The victim could increase or release pressure by moving his head up and down.

The victim had apparently tied the first yellow rope around his ankles and then connected a second rope up his legs by looping each wrap as the ropes ascended to the waist. The rope was also looped through the wrought iron room divider and supported the victim’s body. The third rope was connected to this series of ropes through the wrought iron divider up to the victim’s midchest and then looped around his neck. The ropes and bindings suggested that the victim was able to achieve this without assistance and had done this many times before. The detectives also discovered a suitcase in the victim’s bedroom closet, that contained similar ropes and belts like the ones on the victim suggesting prior autoerotic activity on the part of the deceased.

Fig.2 A rope was tied to an iron room divider and was around the neck, but tightened when the victim’s head was in a forward position.

The crime scene investigators used alternate lighting and discovered evidence of sexual activity. Semen was found on the floor in front of the victim as well as on the fingers of his right hand. Detectives and crime scene personnel examined the home, which was cluttered with boxes, old furniture, and various items and collectibles. There was no evidence of foul play or any criminal activity. The only damage or evidence of entry into the home was through the door, which had been forced open by the police officers who originally responded to the call.

Investigation at the scene and subsequent medical examination revealed this case to be a classic accidental death due to autoerotic activity. The unusual aspect of this case was the advanced age of the victim. Eighty-seven is the oldest recorded age of a victim of autoerotic death. The cause of death was asphyxia with ligature and the manner of death was accidental.

Fig.3 Detectives discovered a suitcase in the victim’s bedroom containing autoerotic paraphernalia consisting of ropes and belts similar to the ones on the victim.

Autoerotic death refers to the accidental death of individuals of either sex due to failure of devices, or unexpected effects of materials, that were being used to enhance the sexual experience. Although asphyxia from hanging has been described most frequently, a wide variety of other lethal situations have been reported. As there is great variability in the number and types of sexual aids that may be used by individuals, careful death scene examination is essential in helping to exclude suicide and more rarely homicide. The clandestine nature of this paraphilia may, however, make subsequent identification and diagnosis difficult unless the death scene features are typical. This is particularly so in the rare cases involving women.

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