recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
I'm a former Death Scene Investigator with over a thousand cases completed. If you are curious about the industry, come ask me anything!

I worked as a medicolegal death Investigator for 3 years right out of college. There's a lot the job does. But one thing it does not do is solve cases in 15 minutes. If you are curious about it or interested in a career in the death industry ask a question!

Proof of medicolegal board certification: http://imgur.com/a/svEu12Z


30
questions
96
score
March 11th 2021
interview date
aaronthenia

What is the weirdest scene / set of events that you can remember seeing?


pbm9

Someone cut their penis off, threw it at traffic, picked it back up and then stabbed themselves to death. Seriously, don't ever do hard drugs.

ssbrichard

Are people still outlined in chalk if killed in the street?


pbm9

I never once saw a chalk outline. At most, I saw a dot of spray paint of the location of the head and of the feet. Just to give a proximity.

Sus_scribr

What does dead body smell like? If you can pin point it what could it remind you of?


pbm9

Brains smell very metallic to me. Was my lease favorite part of the body. Burned bodies smell like varying levels of a backyard BBQ (depending on level of being burned). Decomposed bodies smell like cheese you've left in a ziploc for 5 years.

Edit: squished brains. Intact brain doesn't really smell like anything.

MyUncannyValley

Most of us only know this kind of job from TV shows so I’m curious how that compares to the real thing: do you actually use blood splatter analysis or is that a tv thing? What other clues and indicators do you go on when solving a cause of death that might not be exciting enough to show on factionalized versions of your job?


pbm9

In college I studied the ins and outs of crime scene and lab analysis, so I'm familiar with blood spatter. I did use it, but only to give a general idea of what happened. As a medicolegal death investigator, people may not realize we are not a police agency. We work for medical examiners and coroner's.

My job is more to explain the how part of death no so much the who did it part. With that in mind, I did help give guidance to police. After someone is declared dead I am the only one who has jurisdiction to touch the body.

With that in mind, context of any death, including foul play, is important to obtain. My training was very helpful because I often only had 45 min worth of scene observations before we took the body. You have to take good photos and take good notes to make sense of everything when it's time to write the report.

mysterychallenger

What initially drew yourself towards your current career? What keeps you around?


pbm9

My mom was a court reporter and I really like science. So she suggested I study forensic science...I studied forensic science in college and interned on a crime scene investigation unit and also at my local medical examiner. That experience qualified me for the death Investigator position. While I've moved on from death, I'm now in fraud investigation. I like obtaining information on people or events. Finding out things quickly when others can't gives me a lot of satisfaction.

zomboromcom

What are your favorite and least-favorite depictions of what you do in fiction? Also, have you ever suspected the work of a serial crusher?


pbm9

It's hard for me to answer that because I've literally never watched any of the shows. I like king of the hill, food network, and this is us lol.

insufficientfunds907

Hardest and/or most satisfying part of your job?


pbm9

The hardest job was obtaining pertinent information from highly distressed family members. I had to learn about this deceased person's life history in like 10 minutes usually.

Most satisfying was being kind to people and going out of my way to help them or do my best to accommodate any wishes they wanted. I remember when my dad died how it was nice to have people help. One example was going way out of my way to get someone on the organ/tissue donation list with only about 45 minutes before the time to do so expired (consent, approval, and coordination isn't always easy). Another was getting authorization to transport a body out of the country within 24 hours due to religious beliefs.

IncognitoBandit0

What it is exactly that you do at work? And you use the word "completed" and not the word "solved", is this because you don't do the police work that follows a death or murder?

I imagine you are the one finding out how a person has died, if there was a struggle and such.


pbm9

Exactly, my job was to be the "eyes and ears" and provide as much detail and context for a forensic pathologist when they do the autopsy.

I was responsible for obtaining positive identification, NOK notification, and for making sure the family picks up their people. Some have been in the coolers for a year because people don't get their people.

SkropyDup

Have you ever had to work on multiple deaths in one scene/place? If so, how many?


pbm9

Yes, multiple gang vs gang murders (usually 2-4 people) and multiple traffic fatalities with upwards of 5 or 6.

Brilo0424

How complex do cases get? What was your most complex


pbm9

Complex I interpret as putting in a lot of time. If that's the case then skeletal remains or unidentified decomposed bodies can be very complex. It can take 1 month to a decade or more to identify them. Unidentified people can be buried but not cremated. That way if an ID is ever made, the body can be exhumed and buried elswhere.

Edit: spelling

Leatherwreck

Having had to go through the things necessary for your line of work do you sometimes feel detached from the world as in more of an outside observer than an active participant?


pbm9

It's not so much the job that did that for me. I've had an ability to notice things. Not like forsee things, but imagine more the lines of being able to spot a deer in a woods a thousand yards away type thing..the little things seem more obvious to me than others. Because of that I enjoy taking an observational standpoint. The job then and the one I do now (fraud investigation) kind of work well for that.

I'm good at finding information but not smart enough to be a data scientist lol.

lucyskyanddiamonds

Did you have to present evidence etc. in court or did you just do the investigation part?


pbm9

Court is few and far between for us. We don't have the education to be considered expert testimony. It would happen, but usually like 1 in every 1k cases.

tanya_reader

This is the reason why I love reddit! So many interesting people in one place, with their unique experiences and stories.

What was your educational path towards this job? What degree should I obtain having a high school equivalency diploma? I'm sorry if I missed this question.


pbm9

I studied Forensic Science as my major. A criminal justice degree can suffice but internships while studying will get you the job. Get the degree, do the internships, and pester them over and over. Also if you are able to move you can find a job. Look into ABMDI. It's the national standard for death investigators.

Nosoapradiohaha

What is the most disturbing case you've been a part of?


pbm9

I once went to a traffic facility where the road was poorly lit. The person was ran over multiple multiple times. They ended up being only 3 or 4 inches thick after that. There was nothing left that resembled a human.

Later in the autopsy they ended up piecing back their face enough that a visual ID could be made. I was shocked.

YATA2020

What do you do now?


pbm9

Fraud investigation. Same type investigative skills, but a lot less blood and dead people around me. I talk to people now instead of inspect them.

AHallzy

What is the effect of the job on you? (Mentally, emotionally and/or physically) and what was the first time like?


pbm9

The first time is jarring, but if you can handle the first time you can handle the job. Like any job, it becomes more and more a part of what you do on a daily basis. It feels like a job and with any job there are some things you like and don't like. I didn't like having to take decomposed people's finger skin off their hand and superimpose it on mine in order to ink their fingerprints on a card. Did it effect me mentally? No, I just washed my hands pretty good before eating my dinner right afterward.

Some people it can effect. I switched industries because I couldn't take the midnight shift anymore. My new job is amazing. Day shift, work from home, private sector (vs public government), and all of that has effected my mental health very positively. It had nothing to do with the death. This is for me though. Others may experience different things.

IWillBiteYou

What advances in technology are coming down the pipe that will help in the job of identifying people (be they perpetrators or victims)?


pbm9

It's not so much what is coming... more trying to get medical examiners and police to utilize what already exists... why are we still inking fingerprints when we can use sonic imaging? Why don't we have rapid testing of DNA in every autopsy room.

Everyone dies, but so little amount of funding is put towards medical examiners. The Orlando medical examiner got a ton of money because of Dr. G. It's great.

justapatient12

What are the criteria that warrant a medicolegal death investigation? Is one done for every person who dies unexpectedly without witnesses? For example, say you find a 75 year-old man dead (no witnesses), soaked in urine and with blood around his mouth? Would his situation be investigated? What if it were the exact same physical scenario, but the deceased was a 17-year-old girl?


pbm9

Great question. That is part of our job is to determine if a death needs investigating at all. In FL we are governed by FL statue 406.11. It lists 12 ways that a death falls under jurisdiction of a medical examiner. We take in a case, organize, and then present it to a medical examiner doctor on call.

For your cases you gave it would rely on medical history. Blood coming out of any deceased mouth isn't atypical. The 70 year old case would need to have medical history known. If they had HTN and diabetes I would tell the police to call a funeral home and have the primary care doctor follow up. Granted the officer would need to say there was no foul play suspected. Boom done.

The younger case would obviously be suspect. If that person had a laundry list of medical history we may let their doctor sign the death certificate... but usually the medical examiner on call will want to accept that case. The medical examiner has authority to autopsy anyone they feel should need one.

siggibahama

Okay, so it seems every death on tv finds a suspect and a murderer before long, Is this the case, do most murders end up in the murderer being caught? What is the most perfect murder you have heard of?


pbm9

A majority of murders go unsolved. The most perfect murder will always be when the murderer was a random person with no affiliation to the deceased and does it on a whim rather than premeditated. They use an old firearm with no serial number. This doesn't happen much thankfully, but still happens

Video cameras make it easier to prevent this but still nearly impossible to solve.

AraSevera

Former LEO and volunteer EMT. I developed a weird ability to breathe in such a way that blocked the odors associated with death scenes. I can’t explain how, and I still do it when dealing with unpleasant odors like skunks and such. Have you developed that skill as well? If not, do you do anything in particular to help you work at the scenes w/o getting 🤢

ETFixSpellingError


pbm9

No, I was never able to breathe a specific way to block out the smell. I would just choke down the reflux as best as possible. Or just ease my way in taking deep breaths to get used to the smell. The quicker you take in the smell the quicker your nose gets used to it and you move along. Never threw up though

-Sinora

How does one become Death Scene Investigator and what are other people involved in initial crime scene inspection?


pbm9

For college, criminal justice is enough usually, but any science experience is a positive. More importantly is the internships. Pester every local Medical Examiner/Coroner for a spot to intern

Others involved are crime scene investigators. They differ from death scene investigators because they care more about WHO did it rather than how the person died. Crime scene collects evidence from the person and surrounding area. Then of course you have homicide Detectives and the general police force setting up a perimeter.

AmrMOussa777

best way to become internet investigator (or use internet to investigate real world cases) courses or certificates ?

i.e : female investigator in Don't f*ck with cats documentary if you saw the series .

thnx in advance


pbm9

I do remote investigations now, but for insurance fraud. The best way to get into something would be law enforcement or even what I did (medical examiner). You have to be good at obtaining information. Know what is public info, know how to get private info, and work with companies that provide private databases for tracking and facial recognition. The info is always there, but not everyone can find it.

I'm actually a big proponent of crowdsourcing information related to investigations. Reddit would be an amazing scientific study on crowdsourced investigations.

Alas-beans

Have you been to the body farms that do analysis on various rates of decomposition due to varying conditions?


pbm9

I trained in college with someone associated with the body farm. Never visited it though. We did our own experiments, but nonetheless Dr. Bass and his body farm are very interesting.

[deleted]

[removed]


pbm9

Sure, it was straightforward work. Do it efficiently. Proofread your work and you can leave work at work. I worked midnight, which sucked... but the pay was decent. 55k with 20% retirement every year. That was in FL. So you mileage may very, but I think it's helpful to others to share that info.

It was a public sector job

Nekkoo_chan

I am sorry to come off strong but didn't your job cause you any mental illness ? Are you mentally sane having a job like this ? If you are, do you know anyone who went through some severe mental illness or anything like this in the field ?

I'm just really curious and you can definitely refrain from answering if you don't want to.


pbm9

I'm fine, the only thing that was hard was working midnight shift. Nothing else really got to me. I'm sure it has affected people, but I'm not aware of anyone at my old job having been mentally incapacitated by the job.

If you make it past day 1 you're usually fine. You really just have to detach what you do at work from your home life. Luckily my brain did that with ease. Probably was easier after having dealt with a lot of early exposure to family passing. Death is foreign to a lot of people, yet it happens to everyone.

vigorous_store

Most of us only know this kind of job from TV shows so I’m curious how that compares to the real thing: do you actually use blood splatter analysis or is that a tv thing? What other clues and indicators do you go on when solving a cause of death that might not be exciting enough to show on factionalized versions of your job?


pbm9

I kind of answered this in two separate previous answers, but yes blood spatter is a thing. But a small thing. Context into the person's life is the biggest influence on determining a death. Look in their fridge cause they might have insulin in there. Look in there bedside table because they may hide drugs there. Look everywhere and determine what the person's lifestyle was.

dantooine1977

In the tv show Dexter, the main character started out as a blood splatter expert, but eventually did autopsies and lots of other tests. Is such a multi-talented person realistic?


pbm9

It's as easy as a week of training to do those things sometimes.

OneBricky_Boi930

What do you think of crows?


pbm9

They are tasty.

Other_Exercise

What do you think about the OJ Simpson case? Not about how it was handled, but who the evidence points to?


pbm9

My work efforts didn't go towards who did it. More how they died. So I can't give much more than a personal reflection on that.

Lifekraft

Late to the party and sorry if it has been already answered (i read almost everything but didnt find a precise answer) but what did you exactly studied/how long and do you have any idea if your work exist in other countries ?


pbm9

I studied forensic science (basically criminal justice degree with upper level biology and chemistry). I also interned with a crime scene team and at my local medical examiner office.

My job definitely exists in other countries, but under what title I'm not sure. Searching death Investigator or coroner office is a good start in any country.

Card image cap
pbm9