Pushing Up Lilies

Dispatches from Atlanta: Death Investigator's Diary

Episode Summary

Join me as I bring you a special episode of Pushing Up Lilies recorded from Atlanta, Georgia, where I'm attending a death investigators' training. Tune in as I share my unique experiences, from encounters with a scary-looking Lyft driver to going on a call involving a body falling out of a truck. In this episode, I'll also provide valuable insights into the world of death investigation, discussing the trainings and resources available for those interested in pursuing this challenging but essential career path. Whether you're a budding investigator or simply curious about the field, this episode offers a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of a death investigator.

Episode Notes


• Website: https://pushinguplilies.com
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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 Hey, guys, I'm coming to y'all this week from Atlanta, Georgia.

0:34 I'm here for a conference and it's kind of cool because there's a lot of opportunities to learn when you're in this field.

0:41 We're here on a grant.

0:43 They chose five people from each state to come.

0:46 And it's a death investigation training class for child death.

0:52 And even though, you know, this is something that I do every day, it's still an area where there's always room to learn and I love the opportunity to get together and meet with people from other states that do the same thing I do.

1:08 We all have the same sense of humor and it's just, I don't know, it's nice to meet people who are like minded.

1:15 This is the National Death Scene investigation training and it's provided by the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention.

1:26 So it's kind of nice, like I said, to get the opportunity to learn and it doesn't cost anything.

1:33 I remember years ago I went to the training in New York City after 911 and it was mass fatality training.

1:42 And that was on a grant also.

1:44 And so we were able to learn a little bit about how to investigate mass fatalities because New York City learned a lot after 911.

1:55 And so they were trying to just pass on what they learned based on what happened.

2:02 It was a very educational and humbling and we did get to go to the museum, but it wasn't completely open yet.

2:10 So we got to see the memorial, but we didn't really get to completely go through the museum.

2:15 But that's one cool thing.

2:18 There are a lot of grants that are available to death investigators for training to get the opportunity to attend them again.

2:27 Just kind of mingle and meet with people who think like we do, my husband doesn't like to hear my stories, but everyone here, like has my sense of humor.

2:36 So it's like when we make a joke about something death related, you know, everybody gets it.

2:42 They're kind of like there are people.

2:45 It seems like when you meet people, you've known them forever, which is kind of a strange feeling, but I really like it.

2:53 There's always room to grow and always room to learn.

2:56 And I know that a lot of you.

2:58 I've been getting tons of emails and private messages on my Facebook and Instagram about how to get into this career field.

3:06 And so I want to make sure that I do provide y'all some information on like how to, how to learn and the best way to go about breaking into it.

3:17 And you don't have to be a nurse.

3:18 You don't have to be a police officer.

3:21 I just feel like a college education basically proves that you're trainable.

3:26 And I definitely feel like no matter what your background is, if you want to get into death investigation, you can, there's a lot of small trainings that you can get online that are free.

3:38 And I always just recommend doing those if you can and saving the certificate saying that you completed them, it'll have the completion date on there and your name on there and just put them behind your resume.

3:51 Keep up with all the training that you've obtained.

3:54 And eventually when you're ready to try to find a job doing in depth investigation, you'll not only prove that you have the knowledge, but also prove that you're willing and able to take the time to learn when you don't have to.

4:10 I am going to be starting my YouTube channel soon and when I start my YouTube channel, a lot of that's going to be educational as far as you know how to break into the field, providing you with some trainings, maybe even providing some training myself and also just basic education about death investigation and different types of deaths and fire fatalities and drownings and those types of things.

4:37 While we're here this week, we're covering a lot of different things.

4:41 But today, one thing that they talked about is just like taking care of ourselves.

4:45 And that's one thing I always think about when I go on a death scene, it's like no one's really happy to see me.

4:51 Someone's always passed away and when I was working as a sexual assault nurse examiner, someone had always been assaulted.

4:59 And so, you know, it's like, oh, here she comes.

5:02 What kind of client patient is she coming to see this time?

5:05 So someone get raped, or did someone die and it was never good.

5:09 You kind of have to get into that mindset.

5:11 Like people do appreciate what we do.

5:15 There's no getting around that.

5:17 There's not a lot of people that can do this.

5:19 We've had a lot of people that have been hired and thought that they could do the job, even police officers and they couldn't do the smells, they couldn't handle the filth or whatever, whatever the problem was.

5:33 There was a reason why they just didn't feel like they were a good fit.

5:37 I guess I can say that if you watch a lot of Crime TV, some of the realistic stuff like forensic files that tells like true stories will give you more of a feel of what it's like than like CSI Miami.

5:54 We don't go to crime scenes in white pants with high heels.

5:58 We typically don't wear suits thing.

6:00 I've told y'all before.

6:01 It's not exactly a glamorous job.

6:05 You're going to sweat; you're going to smell like bug repellent.

6:09 Really?

6:10 You're not going to ever really have a good hair day.

6:13 Officers are going to get used to seeing you without makeup because why wear it if you're going to sweat it off, if you can put the glamour aside, it's an amazing job.

6:23 I think you'll find that not a lot of people quit this job like we all enjoy it.

6:28 The opportunity to get into the field is basically going to come to you from somebody who was hired and decides that they just don't like it or somebody who's been doing it forever and finally just has to retire.

6:41 But I mean, I can honestly say that I'm able to retire in the next couple of years and I'm just not ready y'all.

6:48 I mean, I absolutely love it.

6:50 I love my coworkers.

6:51 I love the job that I do.

6:52 I love my boss.

6:53 Like everyone's amazing to have a job like that, that you love so much that you don't want to quit is the best feeling in the world.

7:02 I mean, and don't get me wrong.

7:04 I've been in a situation before where I dreaded going to work.

7:08 The tension was so heavy in my neck and shoulders because I was gripping my steering wheel so hard because I just did not want to go.

7:16 I mean, literally.

7:18 I've been there, and I've done that and once you find something you love, I'm like, give it your all because there's no feeling greater than being able to go to work without dreading it.

7:32 I highly encourage you again.

7:34 If you keep emailing me, I'm going to keep in touch with you.

7:38 If you want to keep up with continuing education and information about the YouTube page, just shoot me an email, Julie at pushing up lilies.com.

7:47 And I will make sure that you're kept in the loop.

7:50 I will make sure that you're a VIP and I will make sure that I can give you all the information that I can find on education and how to get the training that you need to eventually find the job of your dreams.

8:06 And you know what if you have absolutely no desire to do what I do for a living.

8:10 Like my husband has no desire will still keep you entertained.

8:15 I love having listeners again.

8:17 I've met some people at the conference this week who have some interesting stories to tell and are wanting to be guest hosts.

8:24 So that'll be exciting.

8:26 It's just strange when you start talking to people, we all do things so differently, yet we all do the same job.

8:33 It's cool to see how people are like in Texas.

8:36 We don't really get snow.

8:37 We don't ride snowmobiles, we don't have sand dunes and things like that, that they might have in Idaho or Wisconsin.

8:46 I mean, things that we just don't see, things that we don't have to deal with.

8:50 It's cool to hear the stories about the different types of deaths.

8:55 It's just, it's a different world, even though we're all in the same one.

9:00 It's a different world in parts of the US.

9:02 Just like, I think we were talking a couple of weeks ago about how, you know, when my mother-in-law passed away, I asked my husband, well, when's the burial?

9:11 Thinking it was going to be the same day?

9:13 And he's like, May or June, I just kind of looked at him like what?

9:17 Because we don't have cold ground in Texas.

9:21 We don't have to worry about not being able to dig a hole for burial because the ground's frozen.

9:26 Like it's just not a problem that we incur.

9:29 I know that a couple of years ago it got really cold here and our funeral homes did not want to pick up bodies.

9:37 When people died at home, the funeral homes were like, sorry, the weather is bad.

9:41 We're not leaving.

9:43 And so I had a situation where one family is like, well, so we put mom in one of the bedrooms and we wrapped her in plastic and then we opened the window to keep her cool.

9:56 They kind of made their own refrigerator, which I thought was very different, but it's not something that we have to deal with here that much.

10:05 I mean, we don't really have issues with weather to that extent where someone may have to sit at their home for two or three days before a funeral home can pick them up or where someone may have to sit at the funeral home for two or three months before they can be buried.

10:22 Just not something that we deal with.

10:24 That's one reason why I really, really like conferences because we all do things so differently, although we all do them so much a lot.

10:33 I wanted to tell y'all a little bit about a story that, I mean, it's a scene that I had a couple of years ago and kind of freaked me out.

10:41 I originally got a call from the PD, and they said that they had a dumped body.

10:46 I was like, oh, you know, we always, as death investigators like scenes excite us.

10:51 We want the most interesting story to tell our friends about and we want to see, we want to see some real action for like the other guys.

11:02 They always get all the good scenes.

11:04 I'm like crap, why can't anything good happen while I'm on duty?

11:07 And I know that sounds terrible.

11:08 But that's just, you know, you sit around all day and wait sometimes for something to happen, and you want it to be something different.

11:16 And something new and something you can learn from.

11:19 Anyway, PD called, and they said that they had a dumped body.

11:25 I was like, yes.

11:26 So go out to the scene and there is a body bag strapped to a backboard.

11:34 You know, I thought what a nice criminal man, they bagged the body, put it on backboard, made it easy for us to get in the funeral home van like this guy is on his game.

11:44 And so we're looking at it and the body bag had a funeral home name on it.

11:49 We unzipped it.

11:50 And of course, the little lady in there had a hospital band on, come to find out, I called the funeral home whose name was on the body bag and the lady had been in a van and she was on her way to Colorado for tissue donation.

12:04 Well, the man driving the van had no idea that she slipped out the back window.

12:10 I don't know how this happened, but I do know that's what happened because it was broken glass on the roadway.

12:16 And then you could see the impact point where the backboard hit the roadway.

12:21 Thank goodness, the backboard hit the roadway and she didn't let body down because we all know what would have happened in that situation.

12:29 She probably would have been hit by multiple cars until someone finally stopped and realized what it was that they were hitting.

12:36 Thank God she landed backboard down and slid off the road.

12:44 Best case scenario if it was going to happen at all, but she did have a hospital band on.

12:50 We knew who we thought she was and we knew what we thought the situation was because we called the funeral home and they said, yeah, she's on her way to Colorado for tissue donation.

13:00 We had to break the news.

13:02 Well, she's not, she's on the side of the road in Denton, Texas.

13:05 And the guy driving the van was already in Lubbock and had no idea that she was not in the back.

13:13 I'm sure that was a rude awakening for him.

13:15 And I don't know if he got to keep his job or not.

13:17 I don't know if he just had the radio really loud and just was not paying attention.

13:22 I don't know how she slid out the back glass and broke it without him hearing it.

13:2 7I never got that part of the story, but nonetheless, she had to come to our medical examiner's office because number one, she had a hospital band on but no photo ID.

13:40 We couldn't confirm that she was who the hospital band said she was.

13:45 We brought her in, and she had to be fingerprinted, but we did also have to verify her medical history just to make sure that there was no reason for the medical examiner to get involved and investigate her death.

13:58 Further long story short, this resulted in us having to call the family.

14:04 And, you know, they weren't happy to find out that their mother was on the side of the road in Denton when she was supposed to be in Colorado donating tissue undergoing cremation.

14:15 It's always a hard call to make in cases like this.

14:18 Of course, we got a lot of our information from the funeral home as far as who her doctor was.

14:24 We were able to reach out and get medical records pretty easily.

14:28 But the hard part was for the family.

14:30 You always hate it when stuff like this happens because it inconveniences the family so much and they're already upset because they've lost a loved one.

14:38 And then here we are throwing a key in their plans.

14:41 It was again, not a dumped body at all.

14:44 It was just, she slid out the back window, not something that we see every day.

14:50 Thank goodness.

14:52 I'm hoping that they learned from their mistake and that the funeral home takes steps to prevent that from happening again.

14:59 But it was a really strange story and every once in a while, we'll get an off story like that.

15:08 The fun part to me is putting the puzzle together.

15:12 The fun part is knowing nothing and walking away, knowing everything.

15:17 I love being able to ask questions and not because I'm just being nosy, but because I truly have to know, and I think we've talked about that before.

15:27 That's kind of one of the exciting parts about this job to me is that I can ask questions, and nothing is really inappropriate.

15:35 All of the questions that we ask as death investigators have to be asked.

15:40 These are things that we need answers to and they're not easy for us to ask, but they're necessary.

15:48 And these are things that our doctors expect us to do, and these are answers to questions that our doctors need in order to provide the best service for the family.

16:00 I think that's something that we all enjoy is being able to put the puzzle pieces together.

16:06 I love meeting the family and getting to know the families and I know it's the worst day of their life.

16:14 But I'm hoping that there's something that they can take away from it by meeting me and talking to me and some sort of closure.

16:23 I think again, talking with the family is the hardest part for most of us, especially when we're doing the initial death notification.

16:31 And we do keep in touch with families a lot.

16:34 Even after the fact, we got a lot of calls, people calling wanting to know have the cause and manner of death been discovered is the case still pending.

16:45 One of the toxicology results say just all the answers to all the questions are like a puzzle piece.

16:53 And I think that's why we enjoy it.

16:56 I think the police are the same way.

16:58 The detectives just putting everything together and it's, I don't know, it's just the best job ever.

17:06 If truly this is what you want to do, like do not give up on your dream, I'll do what I can to help get you the training information to learn what you need to know, to maybe break out in the career field.

17:18 Somehow reach out to me, Julie @ pushing up lilies.com.

17:23 And again, if you have any stories that you want to share about family members, coworkers, just hometown where you grew up, shoot me an email and we will get you on the show as a guest host and we'll do some further investigation on the case.

17:41 Love looking into that stuff, especially when it's not in my area.

17:45 I don't mind doing it at all if it is in my area, but if it's a case I'm not familiar with, I love like really diving into it to try to get the details.

17:55 The murder Merch store is up and running so be sure and check it out and you are able to make purchases online.

18:03 All of those items are in stock and will be shipped immediately.

18:07 I had to tell y'all another funny story when I was at the airport trying to get to my hotel for this conference, I was completely lost.

18:18 Atlanta airport is crazy.

18:20 First of all, I think they said there are 100 and 10 million people a year that go through Atlanta airport.

18:25 I thought DFW was busy.

18:27 It is nothing compared to, compared to this place.

18:30 Anyway, I barely found where I was supposed to go for rideshare and I looked on the Uber and Uber was 100 and $10 to get 22 miles from the airport to my hotel.

18:43 Lyft was $51.

18:45 So, guess which one I chose?

18:47 Now, my Lyft driver looked a little sketchy.

18:50 I have to say his picture was a little bit scary and I was scrolling through to see how many rods he had done and what his writings were when he had done 1200 rods, he had been driving for Lyft for over 6.5 years.

19:05 He had five stars.

19:06 Everyone thought he was amazing.

19:09 But at the very bottom it said what I find joy doing and his answer was abducting lift passengers.

19:20 Well, I kind of freaked out because Right, I'm here for a death investigation conference and I'm hyper aware of what goes on in the world and what could possibly happen.

19:28 And so I shared my ride with my husband and both of my daughters.

19:32 Pretty sure my husband had no idea that I did it because he never responded.

19:36 My kids both had kind of different opinions about how concerned I should be.

19:41 My youngest daughter was like, are you crazy?

19:43 Cancel the ride.

19:45 My oldest daughter was like, yeah, I hope he's kidding.

19:47 Ha ha.

19:47 So they looked at it completely differently.

19:51 Come to find out he was a super nice guy.

19:54 He definitely meant it to be funny.

19:57 But it was just kind of ironic that the reason that I was here was for a death investigation conference and that he said he finds joy in abducting lift passengers.

20:07 But you know, I thought it was funny.

20:10 He was a great guy.

20:11 Super funny.

20:12 Got me where I wanted to go safely and I'm very thankful for that.

20:17 Anyway, I thought that story was something that I needed to share with y'all.

20:21 But I am going to enjoy the rest of my week in Atlanta.

20:25 I hope that y'all are having a great week wherever you are.

20:29 I hope that the weather is on your side, and I look very much forward to talking to you next week.

20:36 Be safe.

20:36 Bye.

20:39 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

20:42 If you like this podcast and would like to share with others, please do me a quick favor and leave a review on Apple podcast.

20:50 This helps to make the podcast more visible to the public.

20:53 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.