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Todd Fenton - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Todd Fenton

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory | Michigan State University


An expert in forensic anthropology.


Dr. Todd Fenton is a board-certified forensic anthropologist. His research interests focus on the analysis of skeletal trauma as well as techniques in human identification. He is the Director of the MSU Forensic Anthropology Laboratory, a laboratory that provides forensic services to medical examiner offices and law enforcement agencies across the state of Michigan. Over the past decade (2008-present), he has consulted on over 500 forensic anthropology cases, including positive identification of unidentified human remains, human skeletal analysis, trauma analysis, human vs. nonhuman bone, and field search and recovery cases. He recently completed his third National Institute of Justice funded research project titled “Building a Science of Cranial Fracture" with co-PIs Roger Haut and Feng Wei. His NIJ grants have focused on understanding the biomechanics of cranial fracture, including fracture initiation, propagation and patterning. Additionally, the effects of energy level, interface compliance, impactor shape, and head drops versus entrapped impacts have been investigated. Dr. Fenton is also research-active in bioarchaeology, and has ongoing, long-term collaborative projects in Italy. His current research at the Roman site of Roselle investigates the health of the human skeletons and the possible presence of malaria. This project is a collaboration with Dr. Mariagrazia Celuzza, Direttore del Museo Archeologico e d'Arte della Maremma, Grosseto, Italy; and Dr. Elsa Pacciani and Dr. Alessandro Riga, Laboratorio di Archeoantropologia - SABAP-FI Scandicci, Italy. His newest project is the Impero Archaeological Project based in Paganico, Italy (Tuscany) directed by Dr. Alessandro Sebastiani of the University at Buffalo, Department of Classics. For this Roman and medieval archaeological research initiative and field school, Dr. Fenton direct the human osteology component.

Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (4)

skeletal trauma

unidentified human remains

Forensic Anthropology

human identification

Accomplishments (1)

The Kerley Award

Presented by the Kerley Foundation at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Denver, CO.

Education (2)

University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona,: Ph.D., Anthropology 1998

University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona,: M.A, Anthropology 1988

Affiliations (1)

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences

News (3)

Mari Isa: Good bones

MSU Today  


I started at MSU as an undergraduate. That fall, I took my first anthropology class, Biocultural Evolution, and began working in the Nubian Bioarchaeology Laboratory under the guidance of Dr. Todd Fenton. Needless to say, I was hooked. Six years later, I am serving as the laboratory manager in the MSU Forensic Anthropology Laboratory...

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MSU research on how skulls fracture could impact child abuse cases

Lansing State Journal  


The years that Todd Fenton, Roger Haut and their research team spent smashing infant pig skulls in a lab at Michigan State University could change the way forensic scientists interpret skull fractures in children and the way they determine what's child abuse and what's not...

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'Fracture' prints, not fingerprints, help solve child abuse cases

MSU Today  


Roger Haut, a University Distinguished Professor in biomechanics, and Todd Fenton, a forensic anthropologist, have now proven this theory false. They've found that a single blow to the head not only causes one fracture, but may also cause several, unconnected fractures in the skull. Additionally, they’ve discovered that not all fractures start at the point of impact – some actually may begin in a remote location and travel back toward the impact site...

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Research Grants (3)

Building a Science of Adult Cranial Fracture

National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice $564,875.00

2016-Present Principal Investigator Co-PIs Roger Haut, MSU Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Radiology, and Feng Wei, MSU Department of Radiology.

Pediatric Fracture Printing: Creating a Science of Statistical Fracture Signature Analysis

National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice $681,147

2012-2014 Principal Investigator Co-PIs Roger Haut, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Radiology; and Anil Jain, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

A Forensic Pathology Tool to Predict Pediatric Skull Fracture Patterns

National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice $499,824

2008-2010 Co-PI Co-PIs Roger Haut, MSU Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Walt Smith, MSU Department of Radiology.

Journal Articles (3)

Human Identification via Lateral Patella Radiographs: A Validation Study

Journal of Forensic Sciences

Emily Niespodziewanski, Carl N. Stephan, Pierre Guyomarc'h, Todd W. Fenton

2015 This research examines the utility of patella outline shape for matching 3D scans of patellae to knee radiographs using elliptical Fourier analysis and subjective methods of human visual comparison of patellae across radiographs for identification purposes. Repeat radiographs were captured of cadaver's knees for visual comparison before patellae were extracted and skeletonized for quantitative comparisons. Quantitative methods provided significant narrowing down of the candidate pool to just a few potential matches (

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Testing the Demirjian and the International Demirjian Dental Aging Methods on a Mixed Ancestry Urban American Subadult Sample from Detroit, MI

Journal of Forensic Sciences

Nicole M. Burt, Norman Sauer, Todd Fenton

2011 This paper tests the Demirjian and international Demirjian dental aging methods for forensic use when ancestry and ethnicity are unknown. A radiographic sample of 187 boys and girls was collected from the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Detroit Mercy and aged using both methods. The total sample and the sample by age categories (young, middle, and old) were analyzed using t‐tests. The Demirjian method was found to better estimate age to a statistically significant degree for the total sample, as well as the middle and old age categories. The young category was aged better using the international Demirjian method. The results indicate that while the Demirjian method accurately estimates age, caution must be used with the method. Further research is needed to determine whether the international Demirjian method can be used for forensics in the U.S.

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Age Dependent Mechanical Properties of the Infant Porcine Parietal Bone and a Correlation to the Human

Journal of Biochemical Engineering

Timothy G. Baumer, Brian J. Powell, Todd W. Fenton, Roger C. Haut

2009 An infant less than 18 months of age with a skull fracture has a one in three chance of abuse. Injury biomechanics are often used in the investigation of these cases. In addition to case-based investigations, computer modeling, and test dummies, animal model studies can aid in these investigations. This study documents age effects on the mechanical properties of parietal bone and coronal suture in porcine infants and correlates the bending properties of the bone to existing human infant data. Three beam specimens were cut from porcine specimens aged 3 days, 7 days, 10 days, 14 days, 18 days, and 21 days: one across the coronal suture and two from the parietal bone, one parallel to and one perpendicular to the coronal suture. An actuator-mounted probe applied four-point bending in displacement control at 25 mm/s until failure. Bending stiffness of bone specimens increased with age; bone-suture-bone specimens showed no change up to 14 days but increased from 14 days to 18 days. All three specimen types showed decreases in ultimate stress with age. Ultimate strain for the bone-suture-bone specimens was significantly higher than that for the bone specimens up to 14 days with no differences thereafter. There was no change in the bending modulus with age for any specimen type. Bone-suture-bone bending modulus was lower than that of the bone specimens up to 14 days with no differences thereafter. There was no change in strain energy to failure with age for the bone specimens; bone-suture-bone specimens showed no change up to 14 days but decreased from 14 days to 18 days. There was an increase in specimen porosity with age. Correlation analysis revealed a weak (−0.39) but significant and negative correlation between ultimate stress and porosity. While the mechanical properties of parietal bone and coronal suture did not change significantly with age, bone specimens showed an increase in bending stiffness with age. Bone-suture-bone specimens showed an increase in bending stiffness only between 14 days and 18 days of age. Correlation analyses using existing and new data to compute the bending rigidity of infant parietal bone specimens suggested that days of pig age may correlate with months of human age during the most common time frame of childhood abuse cases.

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