By Joe Tilton
Eight counties in the area, including Montcalm, are in a collaborative that has hired one of the nation’s leading Forensic Pathologists, knows as the “Autopsy Doctor.” Dr. Daniel Schultz, MD, has 17-years of college and seven-years in law enforcement, to be qualified in his field, and recognized as the go-to pathologist for difficult cases.
The meeting of law enforcement, legal, administrators and other officials was held at the county-services building in Big Rapids, February 27th at 10:00 a.m. The goal of the meeting was to meet Dr. Schultz and tour facilities where autopsies are done for the region, and confer with each other for deep understanding of the process and what the counties get for their money.
Dr. Schultz began with a presentation called, “It’s Not all about Bullets.” He explained there are less than 500 Board Certified Pathologist in the nation, which means he stays extremely busy between Western Michigan and his other office in Tampa, Florida.
Shultz grew up in the region, meaning he wants to work in the state, although he has been in the Florida office for 14-years. His overall practice has spanned 25 of his 54 years.
With strong promotion of the “Gift of Life” organization, the doctor told the crowd he is a transplant advocate, and stressed communication as the biggest issue. His activities extend to the Medical Director of the Tissue Bank.
Bragging that this eight-county region has the highest reference rate of donors, Schultz and representatives from the Tissue Bank, list 40,000 calls for tissue and organs, with 334 donors and 1400 tissue referrals from the area, although the time span was not mentioned. “We try to make something good come from tragedy, the doctor said.
During his time servicing the region, 51 deaths have been investigated by Dr. Schultz, who said he likes to come to the scene of a death for deeper understanding of the causes. “The opioid crisis is taxing pathology,” he said. Relative to drugs, we asked him about death from marijuana. “I’ve never seen a case where THC directly killed a patient, but I have seen cases where THC caused such poor judgment from the use that the result was death.” This pathologist has worked 6,000 cases in his career.
“You have to have some routine cases to recognize the unusual ones,” he continued. “I never consider a death an ‘automatic rule out’ meaning something obvious is noted. I always investigate,” he said. “Most death scenes are cluttered.”
An observation Dr. Schultz made was, “Your community is very forward thinking. Funeral homes are not ideal for an autopsy since every inch is a surprise.” With that, he showed slides of a typical funeral-home operation as compared with the facilities in Big Rapids, considered equal with major metropolitan areas.
“Seventy percent of all deaths are natural,” Schultz informed the crowd of 100, “It’s the others we investigate.
Our area pathologist was involved in a case that began in 1962, when Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris broke out of Alcatraz. Their bodies were never found, but 50 years later the family of the Anglin brothers came forward with new evidence, an autopsy of Alfred that could answer whether bones washed ashore matched DNA of his brother who had died in another prison. The History Channel produced a program called, “Riddle of the Rock,” and “Alcatraz, Searches for the Truth,” using Dr. Schultz as the pathologist to determine if human bones found belonged to the escapees. Clips of the investigation can be seen on YouTube.
Since this eight-county region clearly has one of the leading pathologists in the nation, crime involving murder in this area will bring the nation’s best to the case.