Well-known Anoka County coroner is retiring, won't be replaced

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 12, 2009 - 5:25 AM

The county won't fill in after Dr. Janis Amatuzio leaves, instead changing its medical examiner's office so the remaining doctors have fewer duties.

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Dr. Janis Amatuzio in the Anoka County morgue in 2004. She is the author of two books on the mysteries of death.

Photo: Darlene Prois, Star Tribune

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Dr. Janis Amatuzio, Anoka County's "compassionate coroner," is retiring at year's end, but she will not be replaced. Instead, the county will restructure the medical examiner's office, changing the duties of the three doctors on staff.

Those doctors will no longer have the added responsibility of coordinating and providing training sessions to field investigators and law enforcement officials, saving valuable time, the Anoka County board was told this week.

"By taking the training function away from the medical examiners, we will be able to move forward without replacing Dr. Amatuzio until our rate of autopsies reaches 600 per year," said a memo from the county's Human Services Committee. Currently, the county medical examiner's office conducts 500 autopsies annually.

Amatuzio's pending retirement as head of the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office has been known for months by many around the county, although she has been reluctant to publicize it.

In addition to her work as coroner, Amatuzio is the author of two books, "Forever Ours" and "Beyond Knowing," which discuss the mysteries of death from the perspective of a forensic pathologist who shares her own story while investigating others.

"When we say we're not immediately replacing Dr. Amatuzio, that is by no means saying that we don't appreciate her work or her position," said Jerry Soma, Anoka County Human Services Division manager. "She's meant so much to this county. Everyone thinks highly of her.

"But we think we can save time and money reevaluating some of the training the doctors are doing."

In addition to Amatuzio's departure, Bob Kammer, a forensics office investigator, resigned last month. His position also is expected to be restructured to do all the training now provided to field investigators.

The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office handles cases in five Minnesota counties, besides Anoka, and in three Wisconsin counties. It also handled autopsies requested by families, for a fee, Soma said. The office receives 2,500 calls each year.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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