A man named Vidal Herrera called me one day after he read one of my stories in the Daily News. “You should do a story on me. I run an autopsy business,” he said. How could I say no to that? I checked around and found Herrera runs one of the best known autopsy businesses in the nation. Now he wants to expand by offering franchises to veterans. I don’t know if it will work, but Herrera said the dead gave him life. From my story (Daily News, June 12, 2011):
Vidal Herrera lives to give voice to the dead.
When a swaddled corpse arrives at his morgue, Herrera knows it’s because there are suspicions surrounding a loved one’s demise from grieving family members.
Did Grandma really die of old age at the nursing home? Was it heart disease that caused Dad’s death?
Dead men tell no tales, but their skin tissue, organ samples and body fluids speak and it’s Herrera’s job as an autopsy technician to collect the evidence for the answers.
“Death has been good to me,” said Herrera, a giant of a man with broad shoulders and a wide smile who wears black and red surgical scrubs.
A La Crescenta resident, Herrera founded 1-800-AUTOPSY nearly 25 years ago. The business specializes in everything from private forensic autopsies to toxicology analysis, tissue and brain procurement to post-mortem DNA paternity analysis.
“Death sustains me,” Herrera says. “It motivates me.”
Now Herrera wants to pass on that motivation to a new generation of autopsy technicians. He’s hoping to expand 1-800-AUTOPSY across the nation, and he wants willing veterans returning home from the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan to learn how to collect body samples. It’s the veterans, especially those wounded in combat, he says, who need jobs the most.
“As a technician, a veteran will have a job, and they’ll have their dignity and self- esteem,” Herrera said. “I want to do this because I know exactly what some of them go through.”