Death Investigation

The Forensic Investigator’s job is to investigate any deaths in Summit County that fall within the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner.  This includes all unnatural deaths such as homicides, suicides and accidents.  It also includes any natural deaths where the decedent does not have a physician (licensed in Ohio) that is following their medical care for any medical conditions to explain their death.  Ohio law further mandates the Medical Examiner to investigate any deaths that occur within Law Enforcement custody.

When a death is reported to the Medical Examiner, the Investigator takes the initial death call in order to gather information to determine if the death falls within the Medical Examiner’s jurisdiction.  In some cases, a death scene visit is required to gather information that will assist them in determining jurisdiction.  While at a death scene, Investigators observe and document the appearance and condition of the scene, body and other pertinent objects on or near the body.  Photographs are taken as a record of the scene.  Personal property is secured if family is not present and any pertinent evidence is collected.  Investigators work closely with law enforcement to ensure the release of any property that is considered evidence.

Investigators obtain past and present medical, social and family history from persons associated with the deceased such as family members, friends, physicians, hospitals and law enforcement.  This also includes clarifying the circumstances surrounding the death.  In many cases, it is Investigators who locates and notifies the next-of-kin of the death.

When a case falls within the jurisdiction of the Medical Examiner, the information acquired by Investigators assist the Medical Examiner in determining if an autopsy or examination is necessary in order to rule on the cause and manner of death.  Additionally Investigators will take x-rays, fingerprints, collect evidence from the decedent and assists with attaining positive identification if deemed necessary.  Investigators create a final report of investigation for all Medical Examiner cases and maybe called to provide courtroom testimony.