Dr. J. Matthew Lacy along a wall of cold cases at the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office on Dec. 4, 2019 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dr. J. Matthew Lacy along a wall of cold cases at the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office on Dec. 4, 2019 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish County medical examiner moving to King County job

Dr. J. Matthew Lacy’s impressive resume and “deeply humane leadership qualities” got him the job as the new King County medical examiner.

EVERETT — Dr. J. Matthew Lacy, who has carried out autopsies as the Snohomish County medical examiner since 2019, is moving into the same position in Seattle.

Public Health — Seattle & King County announced Friday that Lacy had been appointed to lead the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, where he will oversee investigations of all sudden, unexpected deaths.

Lacy, a clinical assistant professor at Washington State University’s medical school, had also served as an associate medical examiner in King and Pierce counties. He publicly joined critics of his boss, then-Pierce County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Clark, who was accused of misconduct on multiple fronts. After five challenging years in Tacoma, Lacy got a call from the Snohomish County office’s operations manager.

“I was rescued,” Lacy said in an interview with The Daily Herald in 2019. “I was plucked out of the fire. I was actually thinking of maybe even leaving the field, it was that bad down here. So I came up here and met Dr. (Daniel) Selove, and they offered me a job, and it’s been off to the races since then. It’s been the best turnaround of my life, really.”

When Selove retired, Lacy succeeded him. Under Lacy, the county pursued and solved high-profile cold cases of unidentified remains through forensic genealogy and also expanded the office’s contract work with other counties. He conducted autopsies on some of the earliest deadly cases of COVID-19 on U.S. soil — helping to guide biosafety practices during the pandemic.

At the same time, Lacy moonlighted as a law student at Seattle University.

“We are very sorry to lose Dr. Lacy and wish him the very best,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a written statement Friday. “He has been a great partner, helping us improve public safety in Snohomish County, and earning the Medical Examiner’s Office prestigious accreditation.”

Lacy was hired following a national search. King County cited Lacy’s “knowledge and expertise in the field, the strong relationships he’s built with local and state partners, and his deeply humane leadership qualities.”

The medical examiner is the county’s highest-paid employee. Snohomish County data shows in 2023, Lacy had an annual salary of $304,000.

Lacy will replace Dr. Richard Harruff, the King County medical examiner who retired after 30 years in the role. Lacy is set to begin his new job this fall.

“We are grateful he leaves us with a top-notch team in the Medical Examiner’s Office,” Somers said. “We will be working to hire a replacement as quickly as possible who can lead this impressive team.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocaleb.

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