SLO sheriff hires full-time coroner to replace embattled examiner

September 13, 2017

Joye M. Carter

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office has replaced its embattled medical examiner with a full-time forensic pathologist who is moving to the Central Coast.

Over the last couple years, former SLO County medical examiner Gary Walter came under scrutiny for misbehavior and questionable rulings on causes of death. Walter, who served as the county’s contract medical examiner, crashed his car while driving under the influence on the way to perform an autopsy. The incident resulted in the state seeking to revoke Walter’s medical license, yet the sheriff’s office stuck with him for months as it reportedly sought a replacement.

Walter has also been under fire for several questionable autopsy findings.

Earlier this year, Walter ruled that the jail death of Andrew Holland was natural, even though deputies strapped him in a restraint chair for 36 hours before he died. In addition, Walter was named in a wrongful death lawsuit over a man who died in Lemoore police custody. Last month, Walter’s finding that a young Ventura woman died because of an LSD overdose at a music festival was rejected by multiple medical experts.

On Tuesday, the SLO County sheriff’s office announced that for the first time ever the county hired a full-time forensic pathologist. The county’s new top medical examiner is Joye M. Carter, who holds the distinction of being the first African-American chief medical examiner in the history of the United States, according to the sheriff’s office.

Carter, an Air Force veteran, served as chief medical examiner of the District of Columbia and chief medical examiner of Harris County Texas, which includes the city of Houston. Carter also worked as the deputy chief medical examiner of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner Department.

While serving as SLO County’s forensic pathologist, Carter will perform all autopsies, medical inspections and medical reviews required by the sheriff-coroner’s office. Additionally, she will be available during regular business hours and on an on-call basis 24/7 for consultations, visits to suspicious death and homicide scenes and court testimony.

Carter’s first day on the job was Monday. She is currently relocating from the Houston, Texas area to become a full-time resident of San Luis Obispo County.







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