Medical death investigator attains rare certification

Jay FitzOur Town Leaders, Union

Knox County’s Morgan Maples is one in a million.

Maples recently earned “Fellow” status as a medicolegal death investigator through the American Medicolegal Death Investigators.

She is only one of seven people in Tennessee who holds the designation and only six are active. About 200 people have attained the status nationwide.

Medical death investigators are charged with looking into any death that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner – including all suspicious, violent, unexplained and unexpected deaths – and are considered the forensic center’s first responders.

“We have a world-class team at the Regional Forensic Center,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “They are committed to continuing education and do great work in a difficult environment. Morgan is a prime example of how they constantly go above and beyond.”

Maples joined the staff at the county RFC, which serves 23 counties in East Tennessee, in October 2015. Prior to that she was valedictorian at Union County High School. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in anthropology and from George Washington University with a master’s degree in science crime scene investigations. Between her studies, she completed a field school in forensic anthropology in Bucharest, Romania.

“Morgan is an excellent manager of our death investigator team and has led her team through the difficulties of both the pandemic and current overdose epidemic with record numbers of investigations,” said Chris Thomas, chief administrative officer of the RFC.

The certification requires a year-long study process to pass a 5.5-hour exam about investigating specific death scenes; multiple fatalities; atypical death scenes; institutional deaths; demonstrating leadership skills; demonstrating legal knowledge; communication skills; and demonstrating advanced forensic science knowledge.

The Knox County Regional Forensic Center conducts death investigations and autopsy services 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

The ABMI is a voluntary national, non-profit professional certification board designed to promote professionalism amongst death investigators in coroner and medical examiner jurisdiction throughout the country.

Abbey Harris, deputy communications director for Knox County, provided information for this report.

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