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Elayne Pope, Ph.D.

Elayne Pope, Ph.D.

Dr. Pope is a Forensic Anthropologist specializing in the analysis of burned human remains and burned bone patterns that result from structural, vehicular, and outdoor fire scenes. Each type of fire environment is unique and produces specialized burn patterns to the body. The data for these burn patterns are collected annually where she lectures and conducts research alongside with other scientists and forensic investigators in San Luis Obispo, California (www.slofist.org). She specializes in burn pattern recognition and the process of postmortem changes by fire to different types of tissues of the body. To date, she has participated in over 20 vehicle fires, 30 structural fires, and 20 outdoor fires, often involving multiple bodies per scene.

She provides education to Fire Investigators through animated lectures at the state and national level to various chapters of the International Association of Arson Investigators about fatal fire investigation throughout the country. She presents her research, which is based off of realistic studies of how the human body burns within a variety of fire settings that are documented for times and temperature, followed by scientific excavation by Forensic Investigators in the field setting with different types of crime scenes, and the resulting burn patterns to the body. Specialized burn patterns begin to emerge on the layered tissues of the body when different environments, fuels, and conditions are replicated for indoor and outdoor fire scenes. These burn patterns can be applied to forensic casework involving burned human remains. For the past 10 years, Dr. Pope has assisted Law Enforcement and Fire Investigators with specialized information about their case based on the burn patterns observed at the scene and at autopsy. Complex forensic casework is compared with known burn patterns observed from the field research, which can offer information about the relative time, temperature, and (if) any evidence of trauma in suspected criminal cases.

Dr. Pope specializes in the analysis of burn patterns to the body as it relates to the type of fire scene. Photographs of the scene are the best types of evidence for observing burn patterns to the body in its original condition; and of course photos at autopsy are likewise valuable to burn pattern recognition. Just as each case is unique, so are the burn patterns that are produced during the spectrum of heat related changes that occur to tissues of the human body during a fire. Ultimately, the burn patterns tell a story about how the body burned; which include information about the duration and/or temperature ranges, fuels involved, effects of the growth and development of the fire (indoor vs. outdoor for ventilation), and the resulting burn patterns to different tissues of the body that includes specialized burned patterns to bone in the form of different colors and heat fractures that develop during the fire. After the fire, (and sometimes suppression) these burn patterns in the different soft and skeletal tissues survive as physical evidence that convey how the body burned.


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