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Iceland. A 28-year-old man was reported missing by his mother. He had a medical history of depression, for which he took antidepressant drugs. According to his mother, her son was right-handed. Four months ago he had tried to commit suicide with a knife but had been caught in time.

Fig.1 Final position, in which the deceased was found.

Fig.2 Position of the shotgun at the crime scene.

Eventually, the man was found sitting in the driver ́s seat of his car, which was parked in an uninhabited territory. A shotgun was positioned between his legs and at the same time firmly fixed in the steering wheel of the vehicle. Brain tissue mixed with blood and some lead pellets were found on the center console of the car. Bloody soft tissue was widely spread over the ceiling. Suicide notes were found in the car, addressed to his wife and child.

The weapon used was a Russian Baikal double-barrel over-under 12-gauge shotgun with a 71 cm (28 inch) long barrel. The shotgun was in the lawful possession of the father of the deceased and it was apparent that his gun cabinet had been broken into with a crowbar and the weapon had been stolen. A few uncharacteristic bloodstains could be detected at the end of the barrel, however, no clear back spatter was identifiable.

Fig.3 Entrance wound.

Fig.4 Entrance wound with muzzle imprint, matching the barrel of the shotgun.

On examination of its inside, atypical soft tissue particles were found. An angle of incidence could not be calculated. No bloodstains were seen in the lower parts of the weapon. Upon opening the barrel two shotgun 12/70 cartridges of the company “Lyalvale Express” had been placed in both barrels, of which the lower cartridge had been fired. The ammunition contains lead pellets with a weight of 36 gr.

The autopsy findings suggested a contact shotgun wound to the right temple. The bullet trajectory was from the right lower posterior part of the skull to the left upper anterior part of the midface region towards the left eyebrow. The wound channel led intracranially from the right temporal area slightly oblique to the midsection of both frontal lobes with a large destruction path of brain tissue and skull bone. Within the destroyed brain tissue several widely spread lead pellets were found, some of which showed irregular surface damages.

Fig.5 Stellate exit wound.

Fig.6 Sling swivel at the shotgun and resulting injury.

The examination of the circular wound in the right temporal region with a stereomicroscope revealed a muzzle imprint, an abrasion rim, and short radial skin tears in the upper margin of the defect. Furthermore a rather large soot cavity appeared within the underlying soft tissue of the defect. In the midface, an irregular stellate wound with three radial tears could be detected. No soot cavity or abrasion ring was present. In the area of the right temple, several star-shaped direct fracture lines had developed. However, due to the high amount of bone fragments, no characteristic external or internal beveling could be identified. In addition, the skull showed several secondary fracture lines in the neurocranium, reaching in various directions with their center located in the forehead and frontonasal region. Here, several irregularly and partially polygonally shaped bone fractures were seen.

Fig.7 Weapon, which was found in the car next to the body.

Fig.8 Cartridge, which was found in the weapon.

Fig.9 Reconstructed position of the shooting hand and of the firearm.

A performed toxicological analysis revealed therapeutic blood levels of sertraline (130ng/ml), an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class. Otherwise, the results of the analyses do not give any further information regarding the man ́s death.

The cause of death was a contact shotgun shot to the right temple with a consequent central regulatory failure due to extensive brain injury. The manner of death was concluded to be suicide.

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