It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: a knock on the door and news that someone close to you has died. You discover that the coroner’s office has been called into action—what does that mean? Across the United States, when a death is sudden, violent, accidental, medically unattended, or simply unexplained, a medical examiner or coroner’s office will be tasked with investigating the death to uncover its true cause. If a personal homicide is suspected, law enforcement will also launch their criminal investigation. 

As this early evolution unfolds, survivors of a homicide can feel lost at sea—but there are anchors to be found. Today, we are going to look at the role of the coroner’s office in determining personal homicides and what options remain for family and friends after the coroner’s ruling has been given. Hopefully, this information will help you find calm waters in a moment of need.

Death Investigations and Determining Homicides

Roughly 20% of the 2.4 million deaths in the US each year are investigated by coroners and medical examiners. This means that their presence doesn’t necessarily indicate that a homicide has occurred, but when a homicide is suspected or confirmed, their presence is guaranteed. Alongside determining the manner of death and medical reason or cause, the coroner’s office will often also take on other duties such as notifying the next of kin of the deceased.

To determine the facts of the case, the coroner’s office will investigate the scene, gathering and documenting evidence and taking photographs, before arranging the removal of the body. An external examination will take place, and if deemed necessary, an autopsy will be performed by a forensic pathologist. Bodily tissues or liquids may be sent to a laboratory for toxicology or histology analysis. 

Once all factors have been assessed, a coroner’s ruling will be made on the basis of their findings. In all but open-and-closed cases of homicide, the investigative process will only just be beginning. However, the coroner’s office will certify the manner of death in a death certificate that will then be made available to the family. Their role in the case will usually be closed within 14-21 days, although when toxicology results are required or microscopic examination undertaken, the process may take longer.

What Survivors Can Do Following the Coroner’s Ruling

If the coroner concludes a personal homicide, law enforcement agencies will take the case from there. However, what happens if those left behind feel unsatisfied with the coroner’s ruling, or even with the way that the police are pursuing the case? At these times, a private investigator seasoned in personal homicide investigations can be enlisted to dig deeper into the facts, find answers faster, or rediscover leads that have been allowed to grow cold. 

For anyone bereaved under the circumstance of homicide—whether suspected or known—unanswered questions can become a heavy weight to carry. Unlike the coroner’s office, a medical examiner, or a police investigator, whose loyalty is to the state and the letter of the law, a private investigator’s role is to serve their client in uncovering all and any relevant truths so that loved ones can finally lay their concerns to rest.

Private investigators from Lauth International Investigations work closely with the families of victims in order to deliver the facts that they often so desperately seek. We draw on more than 30 years experience in solving missing person cases, collaborating with law enforcement, and bringing criminals to justice. Each of our unsolved homicide investigators is armed with a skillset that facilitates evidence gathering, geosocial surveillance, licence-permitted database access, crime scene analysis, witness reexamination, digital forensics, and much more. 
We will draw upon every resource in our toolkit to reveal the realities of your loved one’s death so that you can pursue necessary justice and claim personal closure. To learn more about how a private investigator can assist in a potential or confirmed personal homicide case—whether long-after or even before the coroner’s ruling is issued—connect with our dedicated team today. No commitment is required on your part, and we are ready to advise on how we can assist.