Hi, I’ve seen a couple of your posts about knifes and defensive wounds and I was wondering if autopsies can tell which order the injuries were inflicted. Like if someone was knocked out first then stabbed, could that be worked out or would it have to be guessed at. Thanks in advance.

If enough time passed between the injuries, yes. But, we’re not talking about tracking injuries that someone suffered during a fight, this would be wounds that were suffered on different days.

If your characters are trying to piece together a murder, the autopsy is useful for telling them everything that happened, but not the order in which it occurred.

Sorting out what happened to someone right before they died is a bit like those logic games, where you’re asked to take a dozen pictures and rearrange them into chronological order. It involves getting as much information as you can and then recreating a timeline. Sometimes you know when something happened, such as when the victim was last seen in public, and when their body was found. But, what happened between those concrete points needs to be reconstructed.

There’s no magic bullet here. Your investigators need to look at the crime scene, piece together what they find there, look at the victim (and the autopsy report), sort out exactly what happened to them, and assemble all of this into a plausible sequence of events.

All of that said, the autopsy will offer some hints, sometimes. In your example, your victim would lack defensive wounds on their hands, meaning they were unable to defend themselves before being stabbed. Combined with a the headwound, and it’s reasonable to infer they were knocked out first, then stabbed, and that the killer really wanted them dead, or has watched way too much bad TV, because they weren’t willing to settle for the headwound getting the job done.

So, no, the autopsy won’t (usually) tell you, but it can help sort things out.


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