Governance and Jurisdiction
The Office of the Medical Examiner, State of Utah, is a statewide system for the investigation of deaths that occur unexpectedly, violently or where the cause of death is unknown (26-4-7 Utah Code – Custody by medical examiner). At the conclusion of the examination, a death certificate is issued certifying the cause and manner of death. The jurisdiction is established by the Utah Medical Examiner’s Act and can be viewed in its entirety here.
The mission of the Office of the Medical Examiner, State of Utah is to provide the highest level of service possible to the people of Utah in the investigation and documentation of sudden deaths.
The mission will be carried out through the following activities:
- In cooperation with other agencies, provide investigative services to document the circumstances, evidence and contributing factors associated with cases under Medical Examiner jurisdiction. Provide forensic science expertise to any agency or requestor to the fullest extent possible.
- Provide for the proper identification and examination of cases referred to the O.M.E. and the documentation and certification of all conditions that are found. Assure that all findings are accurately recorded through reports and photographs and that all information is kept confidential. Assure that all information is provided to any authorized requestors in a timely manner.
- Provide for the appropriate dissemination of information concerning all aspects of sudden and unexpected death through court testimony, educational activities, assistance in medical and epidemiologic research, and counseling of the public and families of the deceased.
- Provide for the efficient and responsible use of all public funds allocated to this office.
Dr. Erik D. Christensen, M.D. – Chief Medical Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Philosophy, Brigham Young University
Medical School: University of Virginia School of Medicine
Pathology Residency: Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA
Forensic Pathology Fellowship: Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Richmond, VA
Dr. J. Brent Davis, M.D. – Deputy Chief Medical Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Biology, University of California Santa Barbara
Medical School: Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia
Pathology Residency: Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Forensic Pathology Fellowship: Forensic Medical Management Services, Nashville, TN
Dr. Mike Belenky, M.D. – Assistant Medical Examiner
Medical School: St Petersburg Medical Academy, St Petersburg, Russia
Pathology Residency: Creighton University Medical Center, Omaha, NE
Forensic Pathology Fellowship: Allegheny County Medical Examiner, Pittsburgh, PA
Dr. Kacy Krehbiel, M.D. – Assistant Medical Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Microbiology, University of Oklahoma
Medical School: University of Oklahoma, College of Medicine
Pathology Residency: University of New Mexico
Forensic Pathology Fellowship: New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator
Dr. Andrew R. Guajardo, M.D. – Assistant Medical Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Forensic science, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Medical School: New York Medical College
Pathology Residency: The Johns Hopkins University
Neuropathology Fellowship: The Johns Hopkins University
Forensic Fellowship: New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator
Dr. Lily Marsden, M.D. – Assistant Medical Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Anthropology and Biology, University of Utah
Medical School: University of Utah School of Medicine
Pathology Residency: University of Utah Hospital
Pediatric Pathology Fellowship: Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Forensic Pathology Fellowship: Utah Office of the Medical Examiner
Dr. Amanda L. Ho, M.D. – Assistant Medical Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Cognitive Sciences, Rice University
Medical School: University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
Pathology Residency: University of Utah Hospital
Forensic Pathology Fellowship: Dallas County Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences
Michael J. Staley, Ph.D. – Psychological Autopsy Examiner
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Sociology, Political Science, Carroll College, Montana
Graduate Degrees: M.A. Sociology, University of New Hampshire; PhD, University of New Hampshire
The OME utilizes the expertise of individuals in other fields – particularly Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Dentistry.
Dr. Kelly Faddis, D.D.S.
Undergraduate degree: B.S. Medical Biology, University of Utah
Dental School: Creighton University
Fellow of American Academy of Forensic Science
Derinna Kopp, PhD
Title: Forensic Anthropologist for the State of Utah, Antiquities Section.
Postgraduate degree: M.A. Forensic Anthropology, University of Tennessee
PhD: Biological Anthropology, University of Utah
The Office of the Medical Investigator directs all investigative activities statewide. Medical Examiner Investigators conduct field investigations.
There are Medical Examiner Investigators in every county that conduct investigations at the scene of death. Investigators determine whether or not a death falls under OME jurisdiction, collect background information necessary for filling out a death certificate, collect information related to the circumstances of the death and medical history, assume custody of the body to arrange for transport to the Salt Lake City central office and collect evidence. They often travel to the scene of homicides, suicides, accidental, questionable, and/or unattended deaths as required, and conduct on-scene investigations as required by taking photos, and processing evidence on behalf of the Office of the Medical Examiner.
Investigations Frequently Asked Questions
Why are investigations necessary?
Investigations allow a collection of facts surrounding all unnatural or unexplained deaths; these facts aid the medical examiner to determine the cause and manner of the death. Investigations also aid in the determination of possible environmental hazards, job safety violations, consumer product dangers and public health threats.
What happens during an investigation?
The investigation will start at the location of the death. The police or hospital will report the death to the Office of the Medical Examiner. The investigator will talk to family members, witnesses and others, work with the police in identifying features of the death, obtain medical histories and records, and photograph the scene of the death. The investigator will authorize the removal of the body to a location where an examination will be conducted.
How are the bodies identified?
Often identification has taken place at the scene of the death. In cases where individuals remain unidentified, or where identification is difficult due to the condition of the body, fingerprints, dental records, body X-rays, and DNA are used, in addition to the autopsy evidence, to identify a person.
Can a medical investigator case still be an organ or tissue donor?
Yes. Once family members have expressed interest, the Lions Eye Bank and Intermountain Donor Services coordinators work closely with the Medical Examiner and investigator, and will review the appropriateness of the organ and tissue procurement before allowing family members to formally consent to the donation. Procedures to obtain organs are done within hospital operating rooms while procedures to obtain tissues may be done at the Office of the Medical Examiner. Being the victim of a homicide or other traumatic death does not preclude being a donor. All cases for organ and tissue donation require family consent.