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Kelly Keyes

Research Forensic Scientist


BS, Animal Physiology & Neurosciences, University of California at San Diego


Kelly Keyes joined RTI in 2021 as a Research Forensic Scientist in the Center for Forensic Sciences. While at RTI she has supported the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) program, and helped launch the medical examiner and coroner (MEC) component while recruiting MEC offices from across the country to participate. She also has worked on developing and providing trainings and other media for the National Institute of Justice's FTCOE program, and has assisted with the Understanding Work-Related Stress among Medicolegal Death Investigators (MDIs): A National Survey and Mixed-Methods Impact Study, analyzing and promoting data and developing the mobile app for phase two of the project. She also has worked on evaluating the use of virtual reality as a proficiency testing method in forensic sciences for NIST-OSAC. Kelly is the co-principal investigator for both the NIST-OSAC project, as well as the Bureau of Justice Statistic's 2023 Census of Medical Examiners and Coroners.   

Prior to joining RTI, she had 24 years of experience working as a medicolegal death investigator (MDI) in a large metropolitan coroner’s office at the Orange County Sheriff Coroner Department, in all divisions of the office, including over 10 years as a supervising Investigator. Kelly is a board-certified medicolegal death investigator with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (D-ABMDI). Kelly has investigated and supervised thousands of death investigations of all types, including homicides, overdoses, suicides, child deaths, high-profile cases, law enforcement and in-custody deaths, work-related injuries, and natural deaths both in and out of hospital settings. She regularly interacted with forensic pathologists to prepare death certificates, as well as organ procurement agencies. Interactions with the crime lab and toxicologists were routine parts of her day, and she oversaw the unidentified decedent cases for her office, getting several older cases identified with newer technologies like genetic genealogy. 

Ms. Keyes has experience training and working with MDIs from other offices through her work on the executive committee of the International Association of Coroner and Medical Examiners (IACME) where she is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), the California State Coroner Association (CSCA) and an accreditation auditor of MDI offices through IACME. Ms. Keyes has served on the MDI subcommittee of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) since its inception and currently is the Chair of that group. She has served as a subject matter expert on multiple projects for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Justice (NIJ) for projects relating to investigating and certifying disaster related deaths, development of the next generation of the Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS), Improving the Completeness and Specificity of Drug Information on Death Certificates, Medicolegal Death Investigation Stakeholder’s Meeting, MDI-Data-Workgroup, and updating the Guide for the Scene Investigator.

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