Research Day

Crossbow Homicides: More Common Than Reported?

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INTRODUCTION: Crossbow fatalities are a rare occurrence, with the manner of death more commonly being a suicide or an accident rather than a homicide.

CASE REPORT: A 20-year-old man was found dead in his driveway with a crossbow-bolt protruding from the upper left quadrant of his abdomen. On examination, the bolt had a mechanical two-blade broadhead that transected the descending aorta and lodged in the second lumbar vertebrae. Due to the injury to the descending aorta, 2100 milliliters of liquid and clotted blood were present within the peritoneal cavity.

DISCUSSION: For the forensic pathologist, entry wound reconstruction and radiology can be critical for determining if the weapon used to inflict a wound was a crossbow, a firearm, or a sharp object. This can be particularly challenging when the weapon is not found with the body and is complicated by the variety of tips that can be used for a crossbow bolt. The number of crossbow homicides may be underreported in the medical literature, as an internet search resulted in the discovery of fourteen crossbow homicide cases in the last five years compared to the eighteen total cases described in the medical literature. Underreporting could also be compounded by inconsistent manner of death determinations (homicide versus accident) in crossbow hunting-related deaths. Finally, the presented case, while highlighting the possible damage caused by a rarely used weapon, also sheds light on the problems inherent with the crossbow being straightforward to use, easily accessible, and potentially deadly.

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