Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 213–216 | Cite as

A mimic of sexually-motivated homicide: insect stings and heat exhaustion in a forest

  • Nancy X. Liu
  • Michael S. PollanenEmail author
Case Report


We report the case a woman who was found dead in a forest. The body was nude and the position of the body suggested a sexually motivated homicide. We concluded that death was not related to homicide, but was related to the conjunction of environmental factors, including insect stings, and acute psychosis. A medicolegal death investigation with postmortem examination was undertaken to determine cause of death. At the scene, the body was supine with legs spread apart and the knees flexed, exposing the external genitalia. There were multiple apparent bruises on the body and neck. At autopsy, based on macroscopic and microscopic examination, the apparent bruises were found to be hemorrhagic insect bites. No significant injuries were present and no semen was found. Death appeared to be related to heat exhaustion and innumerable insect stings. Investigation of the medical history revealed longstanding schizoaffective disorder with episodic psychotic decompensations. In the past, during an acute psychotic episode the decedent removed her clothing and ran wildly in a forest, until she was rescued in a state of exhaustion and marked agitation, and taken to hospital for treatment. We concluded that the same circumstances had been repeated but with a fatal outcome. This case is an example of a mimic of sexually-motivated homicide and is a reminder to forensic pathologists to avoid tunnel vision. We need to be skeptical of the allure of common sense based on first impressions of the scene and the body. Forensic pathologists must be unafraid to scientifically explore improbable, but true, alternate explanations.


Bruise Insect Venom 



The author acknowledges assistance of A. Gershon in the review of this case.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

No conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals.

Informed consent

The article does not include participants that require informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ontario Forensic Pathology Service & Department of Laboratory Medicine and PathobiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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