Theodore Curphey

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Theodore Curphey
Los Angeles County Coroner
In office
March 19, 1957 – October 25, 1967
Preceded by Edward A. Winstanley
Succeeded by Thomas Noguchi
Chief Medical Examiner of Nassau County
In office
December 15, 1937 – March 19, 1957
Preceded by Carl A. Hettesheimer
Succeeded by Leslie Lukash
Personal details
Born October 25, 1897
Died November 27, 1986(1986-11-27) (aged 89)
Pasadena, California
Occupation Pathologist, Coroner

Theodore Joscelyn Curphey (October 25, 1897 – November 27, 1986) was an American coroner who was the chief coroner for Los Angeles and Nassau Counties.

Curphey was elected Nassau County medical examiner on December 15, 1937 by the Nassau County Board of Supervisors.[1] Prior to becoming county medical examiner, Curphey had worked as a pathologist at St. John's Hospital in Brooklyn [2] and Meadowbrook Hospital [1] in East Meadow, New York. As Nassau County's Chief Medical Examiner he oversaw the autopsies of Robert L. Bacon, Janet Fay, Owen Davis, Jr., and William Woodward, Jr.. He also worked with the FBI to identify the fatalities of Northeast Airlines Flight 823. While working as Nassau County Medical Examiner, Curphey also served as the Chairman of the New York State Medical Society's Public Health and Education Committee, President of the Nassau County Medical Society, and Chairman of the Nassau County Committee of the American Cancer Society.

On March 19, 1957, Curphey was announced as the first Coroner of Los Angeles County.[2][3] In his first year as coroner, he was involved in a dispute with local morticians over delay in issuing death certificates.[4] In November 1958, Curphey's autopsy procedures were investigated by a grand jury,[4] which accused him of misconduct. The charges against Curphey were later brought before the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission, which promised him that no further complaints will be filed against him.[4]

Curphey was the chief coroner during the investigation into the death of Marilyn Monroe. On August 7, 1962, Two days after Monroe’s death, Curphey announced that a massive overdose of barbiturates was the cause of death.[5] He later said she had lethal doses of both Nembutal or Chloral hydrate and she could have been killed by either.[6]

Curphey also administered the autopsies of Jack Westrope, George Reeves,[7] Davey Moore,[8] Red Sanders,[9] and Dorothy Dandridge.

Curphey retired on October 25, 1967 from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office. After his retirement he served as consultant in forensic medicine and on the Suicide Prevention Bureau, which he founded.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Gets Nassau Medioal Post". New York Times. 1937-12-15. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ "Coroner Takes Over; Plans No Early Changes". Los Angeles Times. 1957-03-20. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  4. ^ a b c "CORONER STRESSES AUTOPSIES NEED". Los Angeles Times. 1958-01-30. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  5. ^ "Did Accident End Marilyn's Life?". The Evening Independent. 1962-08-07. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  6. ^ "Marilyn's Death Follows Pattern Of Other Tries". The Free Lance–Star. 1962-08-18. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  7. ^ "Quotable quotes". The Bend Bulletin. 1959-06-24. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  8. ^ "New Report On Moore By Doctors". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1963-03-26. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  9. ^ Red Sanders Ruled Victim of Athlete's Heart Express and News from San Antonio, Texas, August 16, 1958 · Page 19
  10. ^ "Dr. Theodore Curphey Dies; Was Coroner for Los Angeles". New York Times. 1986-12-04. Retrieved 2009-06-17.