Defense Date


Document Type

Directed Research Project

First Advisor

Tal Simmons, PhD, D-ABFA, Cert FA-I, VCU Department of Forensic Science

Second Advisor

Scott Edwards, PhD, Senior Advisor, Crisis Response Team- Amnesty International

Third Advisor

Jenise Swall, PhD Associate Professor, VCU Department of Statistics and Operations Research


Conducting physical searches for mass grave locations based on anecdotal evidence is a time consuming and resource intensive endeavor in circumstances that often pose a threat to personal safety. The development of tools and procedures to speed such searches can greatly reduce the risk involved, increase the number of individuals whose remains are recovered and identified; and, more importantly, reunite these remains with their loved ones to provide them with a proper burial. Geographic information systems (GIS) software, which can analyze and manipulate the spatial characteristics of known mass grave data, represents a powerful tool that can be used to predict new mass grave locations and increase the speed and efficiency with which they are investigated. Using the open source QGIS project, existing mass grave locations in Guatemala were analyzed based on their distance from and change in elevation relative to roads, streets, waterways, points of interest, and possible villages/towns. Statistical analyses performed to detect relationships among the variables resulted in patterns that warrant further study and can be used to further narrow areas of investigation.


© The Author(s)

Is Part Of

VCU Master of Science in Forensic Science Directed Research Projects

Date of Submission