Behind the scenes: How 12 Cuyahoga County investigators solve suspicious deaths around Cleveland

Find out how the medical examiner’s office investigates suspicious deaths.

How 12 Cuyahoga County investigators solve suspicious deaths around Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Right now the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office is working alongside police on East 63rd Street in Cleveland where four people including two children were found dead Tuesday morning.

19 News has an inside look at how death investigators rely on science to find out how victims like this died.

Investigators with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office are on standby for cases of suspicious deaths.

Twelve medicolegal death investigators work around the clock next to police officers at the scene.

Their work in the field helps forensic scientists and pathologists find the cause and manner of death with autopsies and lab work.

“Everybody works together to figure out what happened. Just because you died doesn't mean you don't have a voice,” said Erin Worrell, an investigator with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office.

19 News was the first news team to take a three day death investigation course for police officers, coroners, forensic nurses and medical students back in 2015.

We learned it isn’t their job to track down the suspect like police.

Instead, they need to find out how the victim died, following the facts.

Science guides their assessments.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. (Source: WOIO)

It's a job not many people could stomach or would want to do.

But it's an essential job that these dedicated men and women wouldn't trade for anything.

“I take passion, and I do it for the families,” said Joe Stopak, Cuyahoga County manager of investigation and morgue operations.

We spoke with him during the training course during the fall of 2015.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office investigates homicides, accidents and suspicious deaths.

They now also run a five-day advanced course for death investigation in addition to a basic three-day death investigation course.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office’s won the August Vollmer Excellence in Forensic Science award for the program in 2016.

The award honors agencies and individuals for their contributions to forensic science and law enforcement.

They also published a death investigation book called Medicolegal Death Investigation: A Step-By-Step Field Guide.

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