Semester of Graduation

Spring 2021


Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



According to the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, “the role of the medicolegal death investigator is to investigate any death that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner or coroner, including all suspicious, violent, unexplained and unexpected deaths” (American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators [ABMDI], n.d.). As such, a death investigator has a job that is highly intense and stressful at a level similar to that of doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and firefighters. The majority of the literature written about death investigators focuses on procedural issues, while there seemingly is a lack of literature focused on the people that do this type of work (Hanzlick 2017; Armstrong and Erskine 2010; Prahlow and Lance 1995; Bass, Kravat, and Glass 1986; Geberth, Schimpff, and Senn 2006; Hagland and Reay 1993). This study researched the role of death investigators from an ethnographic viewpoint by examining their motivations and expectations, as well as the reality of death investigation in south Louisiana. Eleven death investigators from two different parishes were interviewed for this project. The interview questions ranged from simple demographic questions to more complex questions about their roles and thoughts and feelings regarding those roles. The results from these interviews varied greatly, with some investigators giving short and quick answers and others giving more in-depth answers. The results of the interviews were searched for common themes such as how stressful the investigators perceive their job to be and how they deal with that stress. This project allowed for a better understanding of the people that do death investigations in south Louisiana and what being a death investigator means to them.

Committee Chair

Ginesse Listi