Be Their Voice - Thank You Paul Zamora
This month’s commentary is dedicated to our friend - friend to all - Paul Zamora. Paul passed away June 2nd after a long battle with cancer. We met Paul in late 2002 when he became a deputy coroner for Carbon County WY (in Rawlins) and Dean was in training as a deputy coroner in Larimer County CO. Together we learned – and taught each other – for the next nearly 20 years as close friends. Paul would become the elected Coroner about 16 years ago, and from 2010 to this year regularly invited us to several of his annual state coroner training conferences to present death investigation continuing education from a non-law enforcement perspective. Paul transitioned the Carbon County Coroner’s Office being run from a funeral home to a forensic facility serving the community and families at their most difficult time – dedicated in his honor on his last day in office – the Paul A. Zamora Coroner Building.
That same last week of April, Dean was there to give more training, delayed a year because of the 2020 restrictions. Until getting there, we did not know it was Paul’s last week – he waited to personally share the news of his retirement. We suspected this would be the last time to see Paul, and was one reason to make sure to honor his request to give training this year. It was a visit to mostly tell stories, share laughs, and be with a close friend for perhaps the last time.
We have always followed Voltaire’s code – “To the living we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth.”
Today, we look to Paul and his simple challenge – “Be Their Voice”.
Thank You Paul – you are who we all strive be.
What is, “Be Their Voice”?
When a person cannot speak for themselves – because of their age, a debilitating injury, or their death – as Certified Forensic Death Investigators, we must Be Their Voice. When a person is charged with a crime – as Certified Criminal Defense Investigators, we must Be Their Voice. As Legal Investigators, we have no bias for or against any person – including the injured, deceased, and clients – we must Be Their Voice. The facts and evidence are our guide to Be Their Voice. There is no substitute for facts and evidence. Evidence does not lie. What does happen and how can they be heard? Evidence is not collected. Evidence is misinterpreted. Evidence is destroyed. Evidence is compelling. Evidence can be damning or exculpatory. Evidence by itself is just evidence. Evidence together tells a story, becomes a voice – and is as close to the truth without personally living it as forensic investigators will find.
We are approached by attorneys, investigators, families – even prosecutors and law enforcement – to review and analyze the evidence, then present our findings and opinion. Most often, we find the evidence is short of being complete. This may be as simple as not knowing what other evidence is available – such as scene or autopsy photographs; or special investigation reports – such as arson investigations. Other times the evidence was not collected, documented or pursued. We may review discovery and find multiple witnesses mentioned – and none interviewed. We may find multiple witnesses were interviewed – and no statements provided. We do not look for flaws and errors – we look for answers to questions. These may be very basic, such as Who, What, When, Why, Where and How; or more complex, such as specific to evidence collected or not collected, examined or not examined, etc. There is rarely a ‘smoking gun’ or ‘silver bullet’ – there is most often several factors which have developed into telling the story of what did or did not – more accurately what could and could not – happen.
This is how we can Be Their Voice – the evidence we see are the scrambled sentences and paragraphs of a story. Our review and analysis unscrambles those sentences and paragraphs, finds those which were excluded or forgotten, and places them together to Be Their Voice. Their voice, not ours. Their story, not ours. It is in the evidence, without bias or tunnel investigation. Paul taught this to his last day giving training to several coroners and deputy coroners in April - the importance of forensics in all investigations. We are forever thankful for all Paul taught and reminded us. From a friendly smile to forensics.
Thanks Paul. Our condolences to your family, all of your staff, and your community. Your love and laugh will always be with those you touched. Rest In Peace, we – all you have befriended and taught – will take it from here, and we will always Be Their Voice.
Paul was a US Army veteran medic, civilian paramedic, and volunteer wild-land and Rawlins firefighter. To learn more about Paul, and you should, visit https://bigfoot99.com/bigfoot99-news/former-coroner-paul-zamora-passes-away
Not only did we share a passion for the importance of death investigations, Dean and Paul also shared their birthdates just days apart, and a love for American and military histories.