Variation in the microprofiles of machete cutmarks: An application of micro-computed tomography
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Sharp force trauma analysis of skeletal remains indicates that the machete is frequently used in violent altercations across Central America, South America, and Mexico. Reports connect machete use as a means of intimidation for organized crime syndicates. Notably, machetes manufactured within Central America vary significantly in blade width and length from machetes manufactured within the United States. Quantifiable or qualitative methods have yet to be developed to address machete cutmarks manufactured by Central American tools. Forensic reports qualify cutmarks as generally homologous in nature. To test this assumption, this study utilizes micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) to quantify the microstructure of machete cutmarks by assessing the uniformity of cutmark profiles produced using a Central American machete. A series of cuts were completed on three human cadavers obtained through the South East Texas Applied Forensic Facility (STAFS). The resulting non-sectioned skeletal elements were scanned at the University of Texas High Resolution CT Facility and analyzed with Amira and Micro-CT software Gwyddion Microprofilometry software. Results indicate disparities between bone type and stress absorption, indicating a need to examine the relationship between force absorption and bone microanatomy. Microprofilometry, qualitative, and quantitative analysis indicated variability in cutmarks across samples and between subgroups. Lack of consistency between cutmarks inhibits application of traditional class characteristics. Micro-CT proved to be an invaluable technique for investigating the microprofilometry of cutmarks and is a promising tool for creating useful qualitative approaches.