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Legal Identification and Notification

On the surface, this may seem simple, but the Coroner’s Office must rely on more than just paperwork (which may be stolen or forged) to establish the decedent’s identity.  Most legal identification comes from medicine.  Identification methods may include:

  • body description
  • medical records
  • medical implants and appliances
  • surgical / radiology comparison
  • healed trauma
  • fingerprint comparison
  • DNA
  • dental records (odontology)
  • anthropology

The Douglas County Coroner’s Office does not use law enforcement resources for fingerprint comparisons; the MDI’s are trained and certified in fingerprint comparison.

Legal identification includes physical anthropology.  When exposed bones are discovered, it is the responsibility of the Coroner’s Office to identify human verses non-human remains, and if humans, who they are and why the bones were left in that environment.  The “Why” is a task fully embraced in joint decision-making with law enforcement.

Legal Notification

Notification of death is heartrending and, while the decedent may have many loved ones in their life, “legal notification” requires identifying who is legally related to the decedent and who is the legal next of kin.  This process can be complicated when states like Colorado have a “Common Law marital standing”, a status which is frequently debated within families and civil court proceedings.  When the Death Certificate is issued by the Coroner, the marital standing is important.  It is the Coroner’s responsibility to make sure the death notification is completed.  In Douglas County, the Coroner’s Office staff personally makes all death notifications supporting the family through the grieving process.