The violent unexpected death of a family member, close friend, or loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. We understand that this may be your wife, husband, brother, sister, mother, father, child, or loved one. However, officers must do the following once they are on-scene in order to figure out what occurred:

  • Secure the victim’s(s) body(ies) and immediate area, along with other areas associated with the death scene.
  • Refrain from touching, disturbing, or moving the body or any other potential evidence in any manner. Officers must prevent any unauthorized individuals from doing so as well in order to prevent any altering or destruction of physical evidence.

Will an autopsy be performed?

  • The Monterey County Medical Examiner-Corner’s Office will perform an autopsy when there is a need to establish the cause of death for all violent, sudden, unattended, or unusual deaths (California State Government Code 27491) or in cases where criminal proceedings may follow. Autopsies are usually not performed if the cause of death is determined to be natural causes.
  • If religious or cultural practices should be considered, please speak to the investigator and victim service specialist.

Who can authorize the release of the decedent (e.g., to a funeral home)?

  • Once the Medical Examiner releases the body to the family, the funeral director is contacted and takes care of providing transportation to the funeral home for final preparations according to the family’s wishes.

Who can obtain a copy of the autopsy report?

  • Only the investigators assigned to the case can obtain a copy of the autopsy report while the investigation is ongoing.

How can I find out about the cause of death?

  • The cause of death will be found in the autopsy report, only available to the investigators assigned to the case.

When will a death certificate be issued?

  • The Medical Examiner can delay signing the Death Certificate until all tests are done and the actual cause of death is identified.

Where can I obtain a copy of the death certificate?

  • The funeral home should provide you with copies of the death certificate. You will need one for each insurance company, financial institution, Social Security, Worker’s Compensation, or any criminal injury claim you intend to file.
  • If copies were not provided, please contact the County of Monterey Recorder-County Clerk’s Office at (831)755-5041.

Are viewings allowed at the Monterey County Medical Examiner-Corner’s Office?

  • Viewings are allowed in the Monterey County Medical Examiner-Corner’s Office for investigative purposes and evidence collection for investigators and CSI only.
  • Viewings for the family can be done so once the body is released and transported to the funeral home.

What you can do after you’ve had an unexpected death of a loved one:

  1. Gather your support system who can assist you with the following:
  • Notifying the people that most need to know such as close family, friends, significant partners, and employers.
  • Child and pet care, not just for the funeral/viewing but for the upcoming days or weeks.
  • Meals
  • Referrals to doctors, therapists, funeral homes, etc.
  • Driving, one should not be driving if they are experiencing a traumatic shock.
  1. Understand that you are not obligated to speak or provide any information to a reporter, especially if you are a witness to the crime as it could jeopardize the investigation of the case. The police typically have a media spokesperson to give the facts of the case. If you do decide to speak to the media, try to keep the focus on your loved one and how you want them to be remembered.
  2. Take care of yourself. It is normal to be in a state of shock and numbness after the death of a loved one. No one can tell you how to grieve. The following are only suggestions and resources that can help you through the grieving process:
  • Rest.
  • Move. Walk and move around.
  • Cry. If you want to cry; cry, don’t suppress it.
  • Journal, and start writing down everything you think and feel. This can also be helpful if you’re a witness to the incident and for a victim impact statement.
  • Eat healthy. Try to eat healthy and drink plenty of water, this can help you withstand the stress of grieving.
  • Talk to others. Contact your primary care doctor to help you through the initial effects of your grief and shock, ask for recommendations for a grief therapist, and review your local resources to locate support groups.

4. Be sure to document and keep precise records of all your medical expenses, funeral expenses, or any expenses acquired due to the incident including income loss in case you need to file a claim with insurance, Victims of Crime Compensation, or restitution.

Support Services and Resources

  • Soledad Police Department Victim Witness Advocate
    (831)223-5126 or (831)348-1806
  • Soledad Police Department Chaplaincy Program
  • Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Assistance Program
    Salinas: (831)755-5072
    King City: (931)385-8325

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