• Christina Corsetti, H.S.

Stages of Death


Moment of Death:


1. The heart stops

2. The skin gets tight and grey in color

3. All the muscles relax

4. The bladder and bowels empty

5. Men will get an erection

6. The body’s temperature will typically drop 1.5 degrees F. per hour unless outside environment is a factor. The liver is the organ that stays warmest the longest, and this temperature is used to establish time of death if the body is found within that time frame.


After 30 minutes:


6. The skin gets purple and waxy

7. The lips, finger- and toe nails fade to a pale color or turn white as the blood leaves.

8. Blood pools at the lowest parts of the body leaving a dark purple-black stain called livitity.

9. The hands and feet turn blue

10. The eyes start to sink into the skull


After 4 hours:


11. Rigor mortis starts to set in

12. The purpling of the skin and pooling of blood continue

13. Rigor Mortis begins to tighten the muscles for about another 24 hours, then will reverse and the body will return to a limp state.


After 12 hours:


14. The body is in full rigor mortis.


After 24 hours:


15. The body is now the temperature of the surrounding environment

16. In males, the semen dies

17. The head and neck are now a greenish-blue color

18. The greenish-blue color continues to spread to the rest of the body

19. There is the strong smell of rotting meat

20. The face of the person is essentially no longer recognizable


After 3 days:


21. The gases in the body tissues form large blisters on the skin

22. The whole body begins to bloat and swell grotesquely. This process is speeded up if victim is in a hot environment, or in water

23. Fluids leak from the mouth, nose, eyes, ears and rectum and urinary opening


After 3 weeks:


24. The skin, hair, and nails are so loose they can be easily pulled off the corpse

25. The skin cracks and bursts open in many places because of the pressure of Internal gases and the breakdown of the skin itself

26. Decomposition will continue until body is nothing but skeletal remains, which can take as little as a month in hot climates and two months in cold climates. The teeth are often the only thing left, years and centuries later, because tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body. The jawbone is the densest, so that usually will also remain.

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