Forensic anthropology casework at the Cook County Illinois Medical Examiner's Office, Chicago, IL, 2012–2022

Erin B. Waxenbaum*, Anne L. Grauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Forensic anthropology has grown in recent years with increased methodological standardization, technical advancements, and increasing numbers of academic institutions offering coursework and programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, few practicing forensic anthropologists publish the composition of their casework, resulting in limited understanding of the true mechanics of the field by academics and forensic professionals. This study reports on forensic anthropology casework at the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office between March 2012 and February 2022. A total of 132 cases were evaluated. Results indicate that peak months of discovery were June (n = 19) and September (n = 17), with the fewest in January (n = 5). Most discovery contexts were outdoor surface recoveries (n = 55) and were fully skeletonized (n = 47). The majority of consultation requests consisted of biological profile estimation (n = 99). An average of 77.1 days elapsed from discovery to anthropology consult, 60.3 days from consultation to anthropological analysis, and 14.1 days from analysis to report submission. Assessment of the data indicates that the impact of seasonal variation, changing Medical Examiner personnel, as well as the complexity of cases influence forensic anthropology casework in Cook County. Report and discussion of forensic anthropologists' casework strengthens our understanding of the field, allows for the formulation of best practices, and serves as data upon which decisions regarding protocol, funding, resources, and need can be based. With additional practitioners collecting and sharing their data, a clearer understanding of the scope and utility of the field will be appreciated by colleagues and the greater forensic scientific community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2165-2172
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Chicago Illinois
  • casework
  • discovery context
  • forensic anthropology
  • month of discovery
  • seasonal variation
  • state of remains

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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