The Sutter County Sheriff also serves as the Coroner for the county and is
responsible for determining the cause and manner of death. Additionally,
every patrol deputy is trained as a Deputy Coroner. Patrol deputies usually
initiate the coroner’s investigation and the Detective Division's investigation
personnel complete and finalize it.
California state law tasks the coroner with investigating the cause and manner
of death when persons die from criminal violence, accidents, suicide, unexpected
deaths when there is no attending physician, suspicious or unusual deaths or in
cases when the deceased is unidentified.
In many cases, an autopsy is required to assist in determining the cause of death.
An autopsy is a medical examination of the body by a forensic pathologist to help
establish the cause and circumstances of the death. As a matter of routine, tissues
and toxicology lab tests are performed and the results reviewed. The Sheriff’s Office
contracts with both a professional pathology group and a separate firm for toxicology
Working with all of the mortuary firms in Sutter County on a rotating basis, the
Sheriff's Office will take a decedent to the ‘on call’ mortuary. Upon completion
of the investigation the remains are released to the licensed funeral director of the
mortuary, whereupon the family of the deceased may then have their loved one taken to a
mortuary of choice. Once the Coroner’s office releases the body, the necessary documentation
can be obtained for burial or cremation.
If the deceased had religious beliefs against an autopsy and there is a certified letter
asking that no autopsy be performed, this letter must be presented to the coroner prior to an
autopsy being initiated. For information regarding a certificate of religious belief, please review
of the California Government Code. In the event there are no mitigating circumstances requiring
an autopsy, we will attempt to honor the wishes of the deceased. However, be aware that in
some cases, certificate of religious beief notwithstanding, an autopsy is required to determine
the cause and manner of death.
An autopsy is not required in all cases. Whenever the coroner is satisfied that the investigation
shows that the death did not fall within any of the earlier mentioned circumstances or medical
records indicate a natural cause of death is most likely, there is no need for an autopsy.
Coroner investigators routinely contact the local physicians and medical groups in an attempt
to have the attending physician certify the cause of death. In the event the attending physician
declines, the investigator seeks the medical records of the deceased. The records are then reviewed
by a pathologist who determines whether the case can be certified or requires an autopsy.
Autopsy results depend upon the nature of the death. If the pathologist locates an obvious cause
of death during the autopsy, the results are immediately available. However, in some cases the
pathologist needs to review toxicology results before determining the cause. In these cases, the
toxicology firm must complete the tests and issue their findings. When the investigator receives the
findings, the forensic pathologist reviews them. These cases are known as ‘pending’ cases and they
often take up to twelve weeks for a determination. If you would like a copy of the final report or
the autopsy report when they become available, they can be obtained from the Secretary of the Detective
Personal Property of the Deceased
When the deputy coroner responds to initiate a death investigation, they determine whether the
circumstances indicate whether property may be released at the scene to a legitimate next of kin or
if the property will be sealed. The investigator will place seals over the obvious points of entry to
the residence. Personal effects such as jewelry, currency, or other items of value will be removed and
taken for safekeeping. These items are noted in the investigator’s report. The property is secured at
the Sheriff’s Office. To assist the next of kin with retrieving the property, the Office's
requests that an appointment be made. Evidence
Technician Roderick "BJ" Wilson can be contacted at 822-7313 durning normal business hours.
Viewing the Deceased
The forensic pathologist needs to view the body in the most undisturbed fashion. Any viewing allowed prior
to the autopsy requires an appointment. These viewings are under the direct supervision of the coroner.
Sutter County Sheriff-Coroner’s office will complete the investigation as soon as circumstances permit.
Upon completion of the investigation, we will release the decedent to the licensed funeral director for
familial arrangements. Again, the family should understand that they can select the mortuary of their choice.
All of the Sutter County funeral directors along with the Coroner’s office work together to ensure that
this traumatic time is handled in a responsive, considerate and compassionate manner.
As specified in Section 27491.8 of the California Government Code:
"If the coroner or medical examiner determines that a forensic death investigation is required to determine
or confirm the cause or manner of death, as required in Section 27491 of the Government Code, it may be
necessary to retain parts of the body as defined in paragraph (18) of subdivision (a) of Section 7150.10 of
the Health and Safety Code, for analysis."