On TV and in the movies, you've probably seen countless investigators refer with seeming accuracy to a time of death. Have you ever wondered how that is possible? Well, it turns out that investigators use what is called the Time of Death Certainty Principle -- and it's not nearly as scientific or as certain as it sounds.
It goes something like this: If you know with certainty when the person was last known to be alive, and if you know with certainty when they were found dead, then you know with 100% certainty that they died within that interval.
That is the foundation of the principle. That may seem obvious, but that is only the starting point. Once they have that interval, investigators begin to look at both medical and non-medical factors to get an approximation of the time of death.
Dr. Kiesel goes into detail:
All of these recognized chemical changes associated with death happen at intervals of time that are widely known. But these are not airtight indicators. Variables like ambient temperature, chemicals in the blood stream and other factors can affect the rate at which these changes occur.
Dr. Kiesel pointed out other things investigators look for when trying to establish a time of death: