- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - After a career that included presiding over more than 5,000 autopsies, including those of victims of notorious serial killers like Ted Bundy and Green River killer Gary Ridgway, a former King County medical examiner will receive one of the profession’s top honors.

Dr. Donald Reay, now 78, will receive the Milton Helpern Laureate Award in October, reported The Seattle Times (https://bit.ly/1LdWGuP ). Reay retired in 1999 after mentoring colleagues across Washington and once turning down a chance to be the medical examiner of New York City.

“He’s like a God. He was an incredibly knowledgeable fountain of information, but a regular guy when you talked to him,” said Seattle police Detective Cloyd Steiger said. “I worked with him a lot on a lot of cool cases.”

The recognition is “long overdue,” said Dr. Gregory Schmunk, a former president of the National Association of Medical Examiners who trained under Reay.

Schmunk said the award has only been given out 10 times since it was created in 1991. It’s not uncommon for it to go to someone who has retired, he said.

Reay, who lives in Oak Harbor with his wife Judy, said this week that he was “surprised and pleased” to receive the award.

The son of a coal miner, Reay grew up in Wyoming and Utah and decided there must be more to life after working three summers in the mines.

Inspired by the company’s doctor, he went to medical school and was a pathologist for the Armed Forces Institute of pathology and the Air Force Academy Hospital before coming to King County.

In a 1999 interview with The Seattle Times, Reay said he is “not a witness for the defense or for the prosecution. I am a witness for the dead. I’m the one person who can say anything about that person’s last minutes on Earth.”

William Downing, King County Superior Court judge and a former prosecutor said Reay “embodied all of the attributes of the ideal expert witness.”

“He had the intellectual curiosity, the scientific objectivity and the unshakable honesty that led jurors to know they could trust every word he said from the witness stand,” said Downing.


Information from: The Seattle Times, https://www.seattletimes.com

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