Autopsy of two frozen newborn infants discovered in a home freezer

Shuji Kozawa, Eiji Kakizaki, Nobuhiro Yukawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Two newborn infants (one male and one female) were discovered dead and frozen in a home freezer. Although thawing is expected to lead to changes that may hamper postmortem investigations, the victims could not be examined in the frozen state and were thus immersed in saline at 37 °C to completely thaw them over about 90 min. Autolysis and putrefaction were not evident, postmortem changes were slight, and the internal organs were soft, allowing a thorough examination, including an autopsy and a histological investigation. Autopsy showed that both infants were full-term at the time of death. Hydrostatic tests of the lung and stomach indicated that the infants had been born alive, and based on histological analyses of pulmonary alveoli and bronchioles, they had started breathing. Malformations, pathological findings, and signs of suspected asphyxia were absent, and we assume that the infants were very likely to have been murdered. However, the cause of death is not yet fully understood. Although a police investigation revealed that the infants were smothered by occlusion of the mouth and nose and then frozen, there were no injuries on the skin around the nose and mouth. Nonetheless, we concluded that none of the postmortem findings were in conflict with this suspected mechanism of death. As these infants had been kept frozen since their death and thawed to body temperature as rapidly as possible in saline at 37 °C, their bodies were well preserved, which was helpful for the postmortem investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-207
Number of pages5
JournalLegal Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 07-2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


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