A technician at the Onondaga County Medical Examiner’s Office has been arrested for allegedly making false statements about the now-fired Medical Examiner, Dr. Robert Stoppacher, and is pleading not guilty.
Stoppacher was recently fired, and the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office is saying that his technician, Tyler Strutz, gave an affidavit to an investigator that he knew was false.
Strutz accused Stoppacher of defacing a body, but an investigation determined that those claims were false.
“My client has absolutely no motive to lie, he did what any good employee did, he reported misconduct by Dr. Stoppacher,” Defense Attorney Paul Carey said.
The DA’s Office says an anonymous letter was sent to the State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPC) in March of 2017 accusing Stoppacher, among other things, of defacing a body of a deceased person he autopsied with a black marker by adding a letter to an existing tattoo.
The letter included a copy of a photo with an image purported to show the marking.
In an interview with OPC on March 24, 2017, Strutz denied any knowledge of Stoppacher defacing a body with a marker and, in fact, lauded Stoppacher as a “mentor” and “great man.”
The State initially closed its investigation in September of 2017.
In November of 2018, the family of the same deceased person received an anonymous letter making the same allegations of defacement of their loved one’s body.
That letter also contained a copy of a photo depicting markings, but it was a different image then originally sent to the Department of Health a year and a half earlier.
The County Attorney commenced an investigation, apparently unaware that the State had already determined the allegations to be unfounded.
During the course of the county’s investigation, Tyler Strutz signed a sworn affidavit, however, he now claimed he was in the autopsy room and actually witnessed Dr. Stoppacher writing on the body with a black marker.
Stoppacher was terminated in early January of this year.
However, Onondaga County Communications Director Mark Nicotra said Stoppacher’s termination was the result of “several examples of inappropriate behavior… not just a single incident.”
The county issued the following statement:
“It is important for the public to know that the termination of Dr. Robert Stoppacher was made as a result of County Leadership being recently made aware of several examples of inappropriate behavior and actions taken by Dr. Stoppacher during his tenure as Chief Medical Examiner; not just a single incident. While we will not comment on the specifics of those actions out of respect for the persons involved, the public can rest assured that action taken in regards to the employment of Dr. Stoppacher was swift, appropriate and in line with the standards all Onondaga County employees are held to, and what the public deserves and expects.”
Stoppacher gained notoriety for testifying for the prosecution in the Dr. Robert Neulander case.
Within days of his termination, the District Attorney’s Office was provided with information that the allegations against Dr. Stoppacher were false.
Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick stated:
“The arrest of Tyler Strutz today does not end our investigation into this matter. My office will be presenting all the facts and circumstances to a Grand Jury in order to determine who, if anyone else, was involved in what appears to be a premeditated and concerted effort to try to ruin a good man’s career and life. Sadly, they dragged an innocent family into their web of lies and caused them undue anxiety and emotional distress. My heart goes out to them.”
DA investigators also obtained records from the Medical Examiner’s Office and determined that another person was in the autopsy room when the incident allegedly occurred.
When that witness was interviewed, he stated that he remembered that specific autopsy and denied that Stoppacher ever defaced the deceased. He provided a sworn affidavit to that effect.
Strutz was arrested on Friday and charged with making a punishable false written statement.
He has since pleaded not guilty and was released.
Strutz has no criminal history.
He is due back in Syracuse City Court on Feb. 13.