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Four terms that designate a case’s chronology

Knowing the lingo is part of the process for finding overlooked details that are paramount in cold cases. Many factors determine a timeline in a case, but body temperature is the most well-known. Here are a few key terms that will be fundamental in indicating the time of death.



The Glaister Equation is a formula used to approximate the time since death. The calculation approximates that the body loses 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit every hour.


Measuring four pillar factors—pallor mortis, algor mortis, rigor mortis, and livor mortis—can help determine the time of death. These terms are used by medical examiners.


Pallor mortis

Pallor mortis is the paleness that occurs shortly after death (15-20 minutes), suggesting that death occurred less than 30 minutes earlier—most effective if the body was discovered immediately after death.

Algor mortis

Algor mortis literally translates to “the coldness of death.” It is the change in post-death body temperature and monitored before the ambient temperature matches.

Rigor mortis

Rigor mortis occurs as a result of calcium build-up in joints and muscles, as a body stiffens up a few hours after death. This will last a couple of days and is one of the clues used by crime scene detectives to determine when a murder happened.

Livor mortis

Livor mortis, aka hypostasis, happens when blood pools in the body due to lack of circulation, gravity, and as a result of no cardiac activity. This makes the body appear red or purplish in color.


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