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Slovakia. A newly widowed 79-year-old man was found dead in front of the garage of his family home, lying in a supine position between a running circular table saw and a pile of sawn wooden pallets. There was a heavy pool of blood around his head and neck. A workbench and the floor underneath the saw showed a distinct pattern of blood spatter consistent with its having originated from the position of the circular saw blade.

Fig.1 Panorama view of the body lying next to the homemade circular table saw. Note the extruded portions of the brain (blue arrows).

Fig.2 Blood spatter is consistent with the position of the circular saw blade.

Evaluation of the body revealed multiple gaping, saw-type wounds of the neck and face. The head showed complete amputation of the upper skull associated with extruded portions of the brain on the floor within a radius of approximately 2.5 m (8.2 ft) from the decedent’s head. There were no obvious signs of intervention by a third party, forced entry, or a struggle. The decedent had no history of suicidal declarations, psychiatric problems, or alcohol abuse. According to the relatives, however, several days prior to his death, he exhibited bizarre, non-talkative behavior. No suicidal note was found. He was formerly employed as a locksmith.

Fig.3 Close-up view of the head shows complete amputation of the upper skull and a large gaping wound of the neck.

The body of an asthenic man was received for autopsy clothed in a white undershirt, jogging pants, and textile shoes. The fabric of the front parts of the undershirt and the pants were soaked with blood with evidence of brain spatter and discharged bone dust. The decedent’s face, neck, and hands were covered with dense, dried blood.

Fig.4 Frontal view of the pericranial soft tissue damage produced by a circular saw blade.

Fig.5 Left view of the pericranial soft tissue damage produced by a circular saw blade.

He measured 172 cm (5’8″) and weighed 72 kg (159 lbs). Radiographs of the entire body were unremarkable. Major findings were confined to the neck and the head. The head was partially separated from the trunk. There was a deep gaping wound on the right anterolateral neck region. The wound edges were ragged, non-abraded, and irregularly shaped. Internally, the neck injuries consisted of serrated cuts of the laryngohyoid complex, laceration of the right thyroid lobe, transection of the pharynx, severance of the right carotid artery and jugular vein and partial transection of the cervical column at the level of the fifth cervical vertebra. Examination of the spinal cord failed to disclose any traumatic stigmata.

The head had a gaping curvilinear wound with slightly abraded margins starting on the left facial region, continuing toward the forehead and vertex and extending to the external occipital protuberance. In addition, a deep saw-type injury with parallel orientation to the facial injury described above was present on the nose. Examination of the underlying skull revealed a circumferential, almost autopsy-like, cut wound of the calvarium associated with transaction of the dura mater and nearly complete evisceration of both brain hemispheres.

Fig.6 Right view of the pericranial soft tissue damage produced by a circular saw blade.

Fig.7 Irregularly shaped gaping wound of the neck.

A sharply delineated sawing plane passed obliquely through the subcutaneous soft tissues of the left cheek, left zygomatic bone, left orbit with eyeball, frontal sinuses, and the bones forming the vault of the skull. In the lower part of the fragment were fine periodic striations on the cut bone surface. Subjacent to the circumferential sawing line, there were two parallel horizontal kerfs with well-defined edges strongly suggesting a second, incomplete sawing line on approximately two-thirds of the skull circumference. Both soft tissue and skeletal injuries were consistent with the application of a sharply-edged, toothed device such as a saw blade.

Fig.8 Circumferential cut wound of the calvarium.

Additional autopsy findings included aspiration of blood into the trachea and bronchi, generalized organ pallor, moderate atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries and aorta, chronic lung emphysema, and benign prostatic hypertrophy. The pericardial cavity was filled with water and the incision of the right atrium and right ventricle failed to disclose any escaping air bubbles. Therefore concluded that the venous air embolism test was negative. The blood and urine alcohol concentrations were zero. Toxicological studies were negative.

Cause of death was determined to be brain evisceration after complete amputation of the upper skull. Following completion of the investigations and autopsy, the death was classified as a suicide. The suicide motive was most likely emotional distress after the recent death of his wife.

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