Date of Award

Fall 12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forensic Science



First Advisor or Mentor

Angelique Corthals

Second Reader

Peter Diaczuk

Third Advisor

Brooke W. Kammrath


Decomposed human remains are complex forensic puzzles, escalating in difficulty as the remains’ age obscures evidence, like trauma. Research has shown that scanning electron microscopes with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometers (SEM-EDX) are capable of detecting and identifying gunshot residue (GSR) particles on bones. However, SEM-EDX work is time consuming, expensive, and not accessible to every forensic department. Therefore, a preliminary field test capable of detecting GSR indicative particles, like lead, could save departments money and assist in trauma identification. This study examines the viability of using either the 3M Lead Check Test swabs or a sodium rhodizonate solution as part of a field test to detect lead, a GSR indicative particle, on shot pork ribs that have been allowed to decay. Of the 60 buried ribs, 50 were recovered, and 25 ribs each were tested with the 3M Test Swab or the sodium rhodizonate solution. The success rate of the 3M swabs was much higher when compared to the sodium rhodizonate solution; 64% of samples tested positive for lead using the 3M swabs versus the 3.8% of samples that tested positive for lead with the sodium rhodizonate solution. The 3M swabs allowed for a more direct application to the trauma site and interreacted better with the bone medium than the sodium rhodizonate. The experiment shows that a preliminary field kit test shows promise in helping identify trauma that could be either ballistic or blunt force in nature, but further refinement of the test is needed before recommending it for use.



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