Title page for ETD etd-0131102-125405

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Tuller, Hugh
Author's Email Address htulle1@lsu.edu
URN etd-0131102-125405
Title Dirty Secrets: Blood Protein and VFA Analysis of Soil From Execution and Grave Sites in the Former Yugoslavia
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Geography and Anthropology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rebecca Saunders Committee Chair
Mary H. Manhein Committee Member
Wayne H. Hudnall Committee Member
  • human rights
Date of Defense 2001-12-17
Availability unrestricted
Blood proteins and volatile fatty acids (VFAs) deposited in crime scene soil may remain biologically active and detectable after a considerable lapse of time. Soils were sampled from three sites of known criminal activity in the former Yugoslavia. From an execution site near Stutica, Kosovo, soil samples were analyzed for year-and-a-half-old blood proteins using an immunological test, cross-over immunoelectrophoresis. From a total of 72 samples, 44 returned positive results for human blood proteins.

Soil solution from grave soils sampled at a cemetery in Duz, Kosovo, and a mass grave in Knin, Croatia were analyzed for VFAs using gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS). Six samples were removed from four graves in the Duz cemetery for testing. Prior to exhumation and soil sampling, bodies laid in the graves approximately one-and-a-half-years. GC results from the cemetery revealed the presence of iso-butyric and valeric water soluble VFAs in one sample. MS examination of the samples was inconclusive. From the six-year-old mass grave in Knin, four samples were taken. However, one sample was discarded due to mold contamination. GC and MS analysis revealed the presence of iso-butyric and iso-valeric water soluble VFAs in two of the three remaining samples. In addition, MS analysis revealed the following non-water soluble VFAs in all three samples: capric, lauric, myristic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic. Possible causes for inconsistent results between the cemetery graves and the mass grave may be attributed to the differences in burial styles, differences in soil moisture and clay content, and sampling handling.

The positive findings of blood proteins and VFAs in the Kosovar and Croatian soils validate CIEP, GS, and MS analysis of older site soils. These methods may be used to successfully identify crime scenes, and especially suspected scenes more than a year old, in the absence of bodies or other physical evidence.

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