by Nadia Pflaum
What became of Dr. Thomas Gill after leaving his post as Jackson County's medical examiner? Turns out, the beleaguered corpse-cutter is the subject of a recent investigation by the nonprofit journalists at Propublica and a documentary by PBS' Frontline.
It's a lot of attention, and not the good kind.
Gill was the subject of controversy around these parts in the summer of 2004, when ugly aspects of his resume as a forensic pathologist came to light. For one thing, Gill had previously been fired from the coroner's office in Indianapolis for drinking on the job.
Gill left Indianapolis for California and took a job with the Forensic
Medical Group, a company contracted by the sheriff's department to
do Sonoma County's autopsies.
In 2001, Gill was the star witness for the prosecution in the trial of Louis Pelfini, a
wealthy and well-known Sonoma County physician, charged in the death of his wife, Janet Pelfini. Louis Pelfini's defense attorneys found out that Gill had been coached by the prosecution in the hopes of making Gill more comfortable on the stand. The defense acquired copies of tapes that had been made of Gill during coaching sessions, in which prosecutors appeared to be tampering with Gill's testimony, telling the doctor what to say. The district attorney was forced to drop the charges against Pelfini.
Gill took the Jackson County gig as deputy medical examiner in 2002. Two years later, Gill's alcoholic past and the botched Sonoma County case surfaced again. Prosecuting attorneys feared that defense lawyers would use the details to poke holes in Gill's credibility. The issue caused a rift between then-Prosecutor Mike Sanders and the head of the medical examiner's office, Dr. Thomas Young. Young later retired. Gill left Jackson County in 2006.
Gill was able to resume his work for the Forensic Medical Group in 2007, according to Propublica's reporting. Their investigation discovered that Gill
ruled on more than 1,000 death investigations in eight California
counties between 2007 and 2010. Gill worked for the Forensic Medical Group until last December, when Propublica's reporters started asking questions. Gill defended his work since 2007 in an e-mail to Propublica.
Now, Gill is on the job hunt once again, but probably not for long. Because of a shortage of qualified forensic pathologists nationwide, Gill will likely find a coroner's office that needs him.