Death Investigation


The Investigations Department is composed of a Director of Forensic Investigations Administration, Director of Forensic Investigations Operations, and eight full-time Medicolegal Death investigators. This department is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are always at least 2 investigators on duty at any time. Death investigators are specially trained to gather information and evidence as it related to establishing the cause and manner of death. The death investigation is not part of the law enforcement investigation, which typically focuses on criminal acts. Death Investigators often have backgrounds in law enforcement and/or EMT training and/or formal forensics training. Most Investigators are certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigation (ABMDI) or working toward that certification.

The Investigator's primary function is to locate, preserve, and gather the evidence necessary to allow the coroner to make a determination as to the cause and manner of death. In addition to death investigations, Investigators with the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office also investigate and issue Orders of Protective Custody to assist in providing emergent care for individuals with a mental health crisis (suicidal, homicidal, or gravely disabled).

Death Investigation Documents

A fact of death letter is a written statement attesting to the fact of death, which shall constitute proof of death for all purposes, including but not limited to any claim under any policy of insurance issued on the life of the deceased individual. The fact of death letter shall be a public record.

A death investigation report is the work product of the coroner and is an internal document that comprehensively records the findings and all known information about the case created by both the investigative and administrative staff of the coroner's office. The death investigation report is not a public document.

A coroner's report is a document that includes the name of the decedent, address, sex, date of birth, age, and race of the decedent, date and time of death, place of death, date and time of autopsy, when applicable, and the cause and manner of death, including any scientifically contributing factors. The coroner's report is a public record.

Contact your funeral home of choice as soon as possible.  When you speak with the funeral director, advise them that the deceased has been taken to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office.  The funeral director will contact our office to arrange to have your loved one picked up.  The Coroner’s Office Case Coordinator will contact you as soon as possible and explain the steps involved in the autopsy procedure.

No.  In most cases, the identification has already been made.  If identification is required, you will be contacted.  In addition, viewing of the body is not allowed at the Coroner’s Office.  The Coroner’s Office is not designed to handle bereaved relatives.  Arrangements should be made with the funeral home for viewing.

The body will be taken to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, located at 65278 Highway 434 Lacombe, LA 70445.

Personal property and clothing are sometimes collected as part of an investigation.  Personal property is logged and secured in a safe.  It will be made available for release to the legal next of kin during normal business hours.  Clothing will be released with the body to the funeral home.  Any item deemed as evidence will be turned over to the investigating law enforcement agency.

In most cases, an autopsy will not prevent an open casket service.  However, your funeral director is best able to answer this question once he/she has received the body.

Complete autopsy reports are only released to the legal next of kin (at no charge).  They may be obtained by completing an autopsy request form and presenting a valid, picture identification. These documents are also provided to certain government agencies upon request.

NOTE: If a case is a homicide or is under criminal investigation, the report may not be issued.

A case is classified pending when additional tests are required to determine the cause and manner of death.  In some cases, laboratory tests (like toxicology) have to be sent to outside agencies and these tests may take several weeks to complete.

In most cases, the decedent’s attending physician will sign the death certificate.  In those cases where there is no attending physician or in those cases under Coroner’s Office jurisdiction, a Coroner’s Office physician will sign the death certificate.

  • Death certificates will be completed as soon as the physician has enough medical and investigational evidence to complete it.  In most cases, the death certificate may be completed as soon as we get it from the funeral home.  In some cases, however, additional information may be required which may take 4-8 weeks and very rarely, longer.

  • Death certificates are not issued by the Coroner’s Office.  They must be requested from the funeral home attending the deceased.  In some cases, they may be obtained from the Louisiana Office of Vital Records, 504-593-5100.

An autopsy may not be required when the death is known to be a result of natural causes, there is adequate medical history and there are no signs of foul play.  If, however, there is no known medical history or if there is suspicion of injury, foul play or if the circumstances of the death are unusual, an autopsy is required to determine the cause and manner of death.

NOTE: The decision to perform an autopsy rests solely with the Coroner’s Office as defined by Louisiana Revised Statute 13:5713.  Family objections may be noted but an autopsy may still be required to determine the cause and manner of death.