Putrefaction Impact of Bivariate Differences in Decomposition Environments: Substantiated through a Plastic Tarp


  • Avery Wiley Texas A&M University, Department of Entmology


The use of a plastic tarp to dispose of a dead body is portrayed frequently in true crime media and often seen in actual investigated murder cases. In these instances, the suspect wraps a victim's body completely in a plastic tarp and disposes of it, hoping that because the remains are not actively exposed, they will not be discovered. This paper explores the differences between a natural, open decomposition and a closed decomposition in which the body is wrapped in a plastic tarp and analyses the effectiveness of utilizing a plastic tarp for body disposal. Using two wild Texas hogs, Sus Scrofa, as surrogates for human bodies, the decomposition process was monitored biweekly for ten weeks. The temperature, moisture level, insect presence, animal activity, and overall condition of the bodies were measured to determine which decomposition process occurred at a quicker rate and what factors of decomposition had the greatest effect on the rate at which the bodies reached Butyric Fermentation. While the pig wrapped in the tarp underwent faster internal decomposition changes, the presence of increased insect and animal activity to the exposed pig caused its body to deteriorate faster. Therefore, it can be determined that while, in a theoretical, concealed environment, a plastic tarp would be a more effective method to decompose a body because the tarp holds the victim at higher internal temperatures and accumulates moisture. However, because of the importance of insect and animal activity in the decomposition process, leaving a body without covering would help eliminate and scatter the bodily evidence faster and more effectively.

Key Words: Decomposition, Forensic Taphonomy, Forensic Entomology