Joshua Perper

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Joshua Perper
Broward County Chief Medical Examiner
In office
July 1, 1994 – October 30, 2011
Preceded by Ron Wright
Succeeded by Darin Trelka (Acting)
Allegheny County Coroner
In office
January 4, 1982 – July 1, 1994
Preceded by Sanford Edberg
Succeeded by F. James Gregis (Acting)[a]
Allegheny County Coroner
In office
January 9, 1980 – March 2, 1981
Preceded by Cyril Wecht
Succeeded by Sanford Edberg
Personal details
Born (1932-12-17) December 17, 1932 (age 84)
Bacău, Romania
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sheila
Alma mater Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Johns Hopkins University
Occupation Forensic pathologist
a.^ Gregis held the title of Acting Coroner from the date of Peper's resignation in July of 1994, until Cyril Wecht was elected to permanently fill the vacancy.

Joshua Perper (born December 17, 1932 in Romania) is a noted forensic pathologist and toxicologist. He served as the Chief Medical Examiner of Broward County, Florida for seventeen years, during which time he conducted autopsies on a number of famous individuals, including Anna Nicole Smith. Prior to his appointment to that position, he served as Allegheny County's Coroner serving metro Pittsburgh.

Early life and professional career[edit]

Perper was born in Bacău, Romania and he escaped the Nazis during World War II and, following the war, the Russians. At the age of 18, moved to Israel, graduating from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Medicine (medical school) in 1960 and Faculty of Law (law school) in 1966. In 1969, he finished post graduate studies in forensic pathology at Johns Hopkins University. He served as Associate Medical Examiner, Senior Research Fellow and then Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland from 1969 to 1971. Between 1971 and 1994, while living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Perper was a toxicologist and then Chief Forensic Pathologist in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office (now called the Medical Examiner's Office), serving under Cyril Wecht.

Allegheny County Coroner[edit]

In 1980, Wecht was elected to the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners. Wecht did not resign as Coroner until January 9, two days after his swearing-in as Commissioner, as the law did not prohibit him from holding both the offices of Coroner and Commissioner.[1] He resigned under pressure from a variety of sources, including his predecessor as Coroner, Dr. Ralph Stalter, a Republican, and the administration of Governor Dick Thornburgh, also a Republican.[2] Wecht initially recommended that Perper succeed him, and indeed Perper held the title of Acting Coroner until Thornburgh appointed Dr. Sanford Edburg to succeed Wecht. While Perper initially rejected the appointment as unconstitutional, the State Supreme Court upheld Thornburgh's right to appoint Edberg, who duly took over the office of Coroner on March 2, 1981.[3] The transition was not met without a brief physical altercation between the two men. Perper would return to the Coroner's office in January 1982, after he defeated Edberg in the fall 1981 general election.[4]

Los Angeles County Medical Examiner appointment[edit]

In February 1991, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to name Perper the County's new Chief Medical Examiner.[5] While Perper initially accepted the posting, he backed-out of the job two months before he was to begin his duties. Perper cited a variety of reasons behind his decision, including the economic–media reports indicated Perper and his wife, a real estate agent, believed they could not afford the kind of home to which they had become accustomed–and the emotional–Perper's wife also did not want to leave behind the couple's friends.[6]

He would therefore remain Allegheny County Coroner for another three years.

Broward County Chief Medical Examiner[edit]

Perper did resign as Allegheny County Coroner in 1994, after he was appointed Chief Medical Examiner of Broward County, Florida by Governor Lawton Chiles.[7]

Notable autopsies[edit]

Krissy Taylor[edit]

Perper performed the autopsy on Krissy Taylor, the 17-year-old model who died of bronchial asthma in 1995, after collapsing in her parents' home. Krissy was the younger sister of model Niki Taylor.

Steve Bechler[edit]

Dr. Perper performed the autopsy of Steve Bechler after the pitcher's death on February 17, 2003. According to Perper: "It is my professional opinion that the toxicity of ephedra played a significant role in the death of Mr. Bechler, although it's impossible to define mathematically the contribution of each one of the factors in his unfortunate death due to heatstroke."[8]

During the investigation Perper interviewed Bechler's family. He found that Bechler was overweight, out of shape, was not yet accustomed to the warm and humid weather in South Florida, was on a primarily liquid or semi-liquid diet, did not feel well or eat the night before he collapsed and had high blood pressure, was using Xenadrine and had abnormal liver functions.[9]

Anna Nicole Smith[edit]

Pepper oversaw as Dr. Gertrude M. Juste and Dr. Stephen Cina examined and autopsied the body of Anna Nicole Smith. He also had significant involvement in the hearing deciding the fate of her body and has made numerous TV appearances on Nancy Grace and various other shows in relation to this. He revealed his findings that her death was due to an accidental lethal combination of therapeutic levels of 3 benzodiazepines and chloral hydrate. Chloral hydrate was believed to be the major contributing factor. An infection in her left buttock was also a contributory factor. After reviewing evidence in collaboration with legal authorities, he judged the death "accidental" and not suicide or homicide, or death by natural causes.[10]


In September 2011, Governor Rick Scott announced he would not reappoint Perper to another three-year term as Chief Medical Examiner. Perper expressed surprise at the decision, and subsequently announced his intention to resign at the end of October of that year, and enter retirement.[11]

See also[edit]

  • Microscopic Diagnosis in Forensic Pathology ISBN 0-398-03969-0
  • When to...CALL THE DOCTOR! Your A-Z Guide to Illness, Injury and Today's Medicine ISBN 1-883527-11-2
  • Self-assessment of current knowledge in forensic pathology and legal medicine: 1,100 multiple choice questions and referenced answers ISBN 0-87488-178-1


  1. ^ "Wecht Resigns As County Coroner". The Pittsburgh Press. January 9, 1980. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Wecht Reported Ready to Quit Coroner Post". The Pittsburgh Press. January 8, 1980. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  3. ^ O'Toole, James (March 3, 1981). "Edberg wins coroner title in court". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ Root, Dougals (November 4, 1981). "Wecht, Perper Aides In Shoving Match". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  5. ^ McMillan, Penelope (February 8, 1991). "New Coroner in Middle Ground". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  6. ^ Simon, Richard (March 1, 1991). "New Coroner Backs Out of L.A. Job". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Perper named to Fla. post". The Observer-Reporter. April 10, 1994. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  8. ^ Chass, Murray (2003-03-14). "BASEBALL; Pitcher's Autopsy Lists Ephedra as One Factor". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  9. ^ Chass, Murray (2003-03-19). "BASEBALL; Varied Factors Caused Pitcher's Death". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-21. 
  10. ^ "Anna Nicole Smith Autopsy Released". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved April 10, 2007. 
  11. ^ Trischitta, Linda (September 7, 2011). "Medical examiner Perper takes shot at Scott as he resigns". The Sun Sentinel. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Ron Wright
Broward County Chief Medical Examiner
Succeeded by
Darin Trelka
Preceded by
Sanford Edberg
Allegheny County Coroner
Succeeded by
F. James Gregis1
Preceded by
Cyril Wecht
Allegheny County Coroner

Succeeded by
Sanford Edberg
Notes and references
1. Gregis held the title of Acting Coroner from the date of Perper's resignation in July of 1994, until Cyril Wecht was elected to permanently fill the vacancy.