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Knox County, Tennessee, USA. Police were called to a home residence in connection with an unresponsive man. His wife stated that she and her children had gone to a high school football game earlier that evening and upon coming home could not find her husband. After looking in the garage they began going through the rooms in the house. The reporting witness discovered her husband hanging from some ropes attached to a hook in an upstairs bedroom closet. She stated that when she turned on the bedroom lights she at first thought that it was some kind of joke.

Fig.1 Body as found in scene. This was the position and condition of the body when the detectives first entered the crime scene. The paramedics had attempted resuscitation.

Fig.2 Detectives noticed the prominent ligature mark around the victim’s neck consistent with hanging.

She told the detectives that his feet were touching the floor and that he had some sort of black mask on his face. The woman yelled to her son to call 9-1-1. She told the police that she tried to get her husband down. However, she stated, “He had tied himself up really well”. The woman then yelled to her son to bring her some scissors to cut her husband down. She and her son were then able to cut the victim down and they began CPR until the arrival of the paramedics.

The detectives took her statement and then conducted some preliminary observations of the scene. They observed the victim lying on his back in an upstairs spare bedroom and that his body was partially in the closet. They took note that the victim was totally nude. Directly in front of the victim’s feet was a pair of black high-heel shoes. A pair of scissors was lying next to the victim’s left foot. A white towel was on the floor next to the victim’s head. The victim had two distinct rope markings on or about his abdomen region as well as two distinct rope markings on his neck. A white vibrator was unplugged and laying on the bedroom floor. A part of the roping was also lying with the vibrator.

Fig.3 Inside the closet detectives found a pair of scissors and the high-heel shoes, one of which is pictured herein.

Fig.4 The wife stated that her husband had a black mask on when she found him. This mask was found on the floor along with a towel.

The lead detective immediately recognized the possibility that the death may be an autoerotic fatality and that the crime scene had been changed. She decided to personally re-interview the victim’s wife in confidence regarding exactly what she had seen and what she had done prior to the arrival of emergency personnel. She asked a number of personal questions about their lifestyle and requested information about what sexual fantasies she and her husband shared. She asked the woman whether or not she recognized the vibrator that was found in the closet.

The wife stated that her husband liked to tie her up while she wore her one-piece bathing suit. She stated that the vibrator was hers and that she kept it in her bathroom in the same drawer as her curling iron and hairdryer. She was asked what size shoes she and her daughter wore and she replied that they were 7 1⁄2. She then remembered that when she first saw her husband hanging he had something black like a dog collar around his person and she removed it while trying to get him down.

Fig.5 This vibrator, which was unplugged, was recovered in the scene.

Fig.6 These cut pieces of bathing suit were found wadded up and recovered from inside a laundry basket.

The detectives then conducted a more thorough investigation around the bedroom, noting the victim’s clothing and underwear tossed on the bed. They checked the black high-heel shoes and found that they fit the victim’s feet and were a size 10. They located the black face mask in the closet and then found a woman’s one-piece swimsuit and pantyhose stockings that had been wadded up and placed under a hat within a laundry basket in the closet where the victim had been found. When the detectives laid out the swimsuit and pantyhose on the floor they observed that the items had been cut up the side as if they had been removed from the victim. The investigators then noticed that a secured hook-type apparatus had been attached with screws to a stud inside the closet above the closet door. The presence of this hook was highly suggestive that the victim had used this closet before to engage in an autoerotic activity.

The lead detective then re-interviewed the victim’s wife regarding these items that were recovered by the detectives and she admitted that she had removed the bathing suit and pantyhose from her husband by cutting the garments off his body prior to the officer’s arrival. She stated that she placed them in the laundry basket so they wouldn’t be seen. She advised the detective that she was embarrassed for her husband and didn’t know how to explain this event and that was why she removed these items. The investigators dutifully noted this in their report and there was no culpability on the part of the family.

Fig.7 These pantyhose had been cut from the victim’s body.

Fig.8 This hook had been screwed into a stud inside the closet door to allow the victim to hang inside the closet.

In this case, the wife readily admitted why she had engaged in her actions. It was not to mislead the police nor thwart the investigation but to preserve the dignity of her husband. This death was properly classified as asphyxia by hanging. The manner of death was ruled to be an accidental death, which occurred during a dangerous autoerotic practice.

Autoerotic deaths have been defined as accidental deaths occurring during individual, usually solitary, sexual activity in which a device, apparatus, or prop employed to enhance the sexual stimulation of the deceased in some way caused unintentional death. The most common methods of autoerotic activity leading to death consist of asphyxia by hanging, ligature, plastic bag, chemical substances or a combination of these.

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