Morbid: What would be the effect of electrocuting someone for 20 years?

Heh. I read this as “Were I live possums,” a schizoid marsupial hypothetical.

Need answer fast?

So, first of all, I want to corroborate what you just said, by pointing to a (secondary) source making that claim:

The freshman aviation technology student’s body was found Monday by a maintenance worker investigating reports of a “pinging” sound coming from Owen Hall’s utility room.

and

That day, someone called campus maintenance about a noise in the utility room that powers the coed dorm that houses about 700 students.

But…

  1. I don’t see that in the official report you helpfully linked to (although I didn’t read the whole thing in full, only skimmed certain portions and searched for some words).

  2. I found a press release from the university that contradicts that newspaper article:

https://www.purdue.edu/uns/x/2007b/070702RimkusSteffey.html

Steffey was reported missing on Jan. 16, and an extensive search and investigation failed to locate him. His body was found in the electrical vault March 19 by a university employee who was investigating a report of an unusual odor.

Finally, knowing what I know about high voltage electricity and electrocution…it just seems really implausible to me that someone could be in continituous contact with high voltage, with current flowing through them, and not be absolutely fried (or at least be so badly burned at the point of contact as to no longer be capable of conducting electricity). But maybe the voltage wasn’t that high (high enough to kill, but not to fry), and/or the power only cycled. I might also imagine the pinging sound was something like a breaker repeatedly cycling shut (or trying to) and tripping automatically due to the… “abnormal” condition of the system, without actually completing a circuit.

Right, but if we ask only about the effects of current - suppose it were possibly to supply electrical current for 20 years without malfunction, would it interfere with decomposition, etc.?

I think the current running through the corpse non-stop would desiccate it to the point where it would catch fire, decomposing hastily until the circuit was broken. Then it might continue to burn without current if the body contained sufficient fat content, and the facility lacked a fire suppression system.