The purpose of the Office of the Medical Examiner is to provide responsible handling of reportable deaths within Navajo County and to determine the cause and manner of those deaths. The performance standards and guidelines we follow are based upon the National Association of Medical Examiner Forensic Autopsy Performance Standards. Attempts to follow these guidelines will be taken on all deaths occurring within the county.
The Alternate Medical Examiner, Dr. Wade Kartchner, will direct all death investigations and will determine whether an external examination or autopsy is required. Autopsies, if indicated, are performed on a contract basis by the Coconino County / Pima County Medical Examiner. The Alternate Medical Examiner will from time to time decline cases in which the cause of death is apparently natural and when the deceased was under the current care of a physician. The Alternate Medical Examiner has the authority to assign to a medical death investigator or other qualified personnel all aspects of a death investigation except performance of an autopsy per A.R.S. 11-594 B.1. Two Medicolegal Death Investigators are employed and based in Holbrook and Show Low.
All deaths shall be reported to the local law enforcement agency per A.R.S. 11-593. Any person having knowledge of the death of a human being including a fetal death shall promptly notify the nearest peace officer of all information in the person’s possession regarding the death and circumstances surrounding the death. Law enforcement is responsible for reporting certain deaths to the Office of the Medical Examiner per A.R.S. 11-593. All reportable medical examiner cases are deaths described below and in A.R.S. 11-593.
- Death when not under the current care of a health care provider. Current care means treating a patient within 18 months and prescribing any medication within 18 months.
- Death resulting from violence.
- Death occurring suddenly when in apparent good health.
- Death occurring in a prison.
- Death of a prisoner. (any correctional institution)
- Death occurring in a suspicious, unusual or unnatural manner.
- Death from a disease or an accident believed to be related to the deceased’s occupation or employment.
- Death believed to present a public health hazard.
- Death occurring during, associated with, or as a result of anesthetic or surgical procedure.
- Death involving unidentified bodies.
The Alternate Medical Examiner may limit the removal of organs or tissues for transplant or other therapy or treatment if their removal would interfere with the autopsy to determine cause and manner of death. All cases are treated on a case by case basis and we will work with the organ procurement organization to fulfill the wishes of the deceased and or immediate family’s wishes for donation.
Final examination reports are made available to the public once the case is closed and completed. These reports consist of an autopsy report or external examination report and in some cases a toxicology report. These reports can be requested through contact with one of our offices listed below.
The Navajo County Office of the Medical Examiner can always be reached by calling the 24 hour non-emergency line at the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office dispatch at (928) 524-4050.
Some families may choose to donate the body for medical research.
Codie J. Sanders
SR. Medico-Legal Death Investigator
Office: (928) 536-6342
Cell: (928) 414-1353
145 Main Street, Suite B
Snowflake, AZ 85937
Nikki D. Olson
Office: (928) 524-4708
Cell: (928) 414-1361
117 East Buffalo Street
Holbrook, AZ 86025