The San Diego Medical Examiner

Dr. Glenn Wagner

“People are dying to see me,” quipped Chief San Diego Medical Examiner Dr. Glenn Wagner as he began leading a tour of the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office on a rainy night. Dealing with death and its traumatic aftermath on a daily basis requires Dr. Wagner to use his medical skill, human compassion, and yes, even to maintain a sense of humor. Dr. Wagner is indeed a charismatic man with a long list of accomplishments. He became the Chief San Diego Medical Examiner in 2003, after serving 33 years in the military, retiring as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the United States Navy and the commanding officer of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C.   In addition to his medical training, Dr. Wagner also graduated from the Philadelphia Police Academy and was a police detective and crime scene investigator for 6 years.

The San Diego Medical Examiner

A Tragic and Disturbing Case

I was one of the lucky ones who went on Dr. Wagner’s tour. Always dealing with sudden death, the night of our tour was no different as Dr. Wagner took breaks to oversee the autopsy of a young woman recently found stuffed inside a suitcase in downtown San Diego. She would later be identified as 21-year-old Shauna Hayes. Her friend, Joshua Palmer was soon arrested and charged with beating and strangling her to death. A tragic case without a doubt!

Important Information and Fascinating Facts

During the tour and lecture, Dr. Wagner revealed the following information and fascinating facts:

  • The office of the San Diego Medical Examiner is 84,000 square feet and cost 85 million dollars, which was paid in cash!
  • There are 20,000 deaths recorded annually in San Diego County, with 11,000 of them falling under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Medical Examiner. 3,000 bodies actually come to the Medical Examiner, with 85% of them requiring autopsies.
  • 200-300 John Does and Jane Does are seen each year. Through the advancement in DNA, the Medical Examiner is now identifying John Does and Jane Does from as far back as the 1970s.
  • The leading cause of death is drugs, both illicit and prescription, followed by deaths related to being overweight. “Don’t be fat,” said Dr. Wagner. Since 2012, Dr. Wagner has seen 3 people over 1,000 pounds!
  • The weight limit for cremation is 700 pounds. A body weighing more must be dismembered. “Stay under 700 pounds!” kidded Dr. Wagner.
  • The Medical Examiner’s Office seeks answers to the following questions:
    • Who is this person?
    • What was the cause of death?
    • When was the time of injury/time of death?
    • Where did the death occur?
    • How did this person die?
    • Why did someone do this?
    • Who did this?
  • Bodies are kept refrigerated at 34 degrees.
  • Drugs that are found with the deceased are kept in “The Candy Room” and are incinerated every 4 months in the presence of law enforcement.
  • The toxicology unit can recover 30,000 chemical substances.
  • The Medical Examiner’s Office has a Life Sharing Donor Unit. An organ donor can benefit up to 10 people. Skin and tissue donation can benefit 50 recipients. “Please become a donor today!” encourages Dr. Wagner.

To Learn More About the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office:

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About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.

I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and write stories and books about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows, including “48 Hours,” “Snapped,” and “The Dead Files,” and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.

I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon.

I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit:

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