Journal Article

Percutaneous Absorption and Distribution of Methanol in a Homicide

Joseph Avella, Edward Briglia, Gwendolyn Harleman and Michael Lehrer

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 29, issue 7, pages 734-737
Published in print October 2005 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online October 2005 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI:
Percutaneous Absorption and Distribution of Methanol in a Homicide

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A woman was alleged to have committed suicide by consuming a gasoline additive shortly before jumping from a second floor balcony within her home. She was found dead by police with a multitude of injuries, lying nude in a partially evaporated unknown residue that was later determined to be methanol. Samples collected at autopsy were found to contain methanol in the following concentrations: femoral blood 31.2 mg/dL, pulmonary artery blood 111.0 mg/dL, aortic blood 77.8 mg/dL, vitreous fluid 196.4 mg/dL, brain 22.0 mg/100 g, liver 21.2 mg/100 g, and kidney 25.9 mg/100 g using a headspace gas chromatographic method. Significantly, no methanol was detected in samples recovered from the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, small intestine, bile, or urine. These findings are inconsistent with either recent or delayed oral ingestion of methanol. We concluded that absorption of methanol occurred dermally and through the oral mucosa as she lay dying and saturated in the fuel additive. Based upon the toxicological data and a comprehensive forensic investigation (including documentation and analysis of evidence recovered at the scene and the autopsy), the cause of death was determined to be blunt impact trauma and methanol poisoning.

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Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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