New interim chief medical examiner says office 'going in the right direction'

Dr. Pietak says it's his duty to tell families truth about how loved ones died

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Monday was the first day of work for the new interim chief medical examiner for District Four, which is responsible for reviewing every homicide and unintended death in five Northeast Florida counties -- Duval, Clay, Columbia, Nassau and Hamilton. 

Examining dead bodies is a unique profession, but Dr. Boguslaw Pietak told News4Jax that it's his duty to tell families the truth about how their loved ones died. 

"I just love dealing with the whole aspect of forensic pathology," he said. "I think it helps a whole lot for the families to find out what the cause of death was of their loved one."

Pietak, who was appointed by State Attorney Melissa Nelson, said he's ready to lead the District Four Medical Examiner's Office.

"So the ultimate goal is to provide the most challenging and very detailed medical and legal death investigation. That's what its all about," Pietak said. "I think that this office is going in the right direction."

The District Four office has made several improvements under the leadership of now-former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao, but the office hopes for more improvements as it deals with a growing population and the opioid epidemic. 

It was nearly two years ago when Rao pleaded with the city for more space. She even took News4Jax inside the morgue to show the public the outdated space. Since then, the city had granted more supplies, a cooler for bodies and a new trailer. Rao also asked for a new building and Pietak agrees. 

"I believe this building is showing some signs of aging, as many buildings do," he said.

Pietak won't just be in the office performing autopsies. He will also be in court, testifying for some of the most brutal criminal cases the city will see. 

Before a search committee agreed on the new interim chief, Rao retired, but decided to stay as a contractor so that the District Four office would not lose its accreditation. 

"I didn't want to lose the accreditation. It took us so much effort," Rao said. "So in order for that accreditation to remain ... I had to be there."

If Rao had left, the district would have lost its credibility for its cases. Now, she looks forward to spending time with her family and living near the Gulf Coast.

As for Pietak, he is excited about giving back to the community by offering the facts in some of the most difficult aspects of death. 

Pietak has received some criticism about his work ethic versus leisure time from a previous co-worker. Pietak said his work-life balance is important to him, but he will be giving 100% to the district. 

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