Dr. Vincent DiMaio, Pathologist in Notorious Murder Cases, Dies at 81

Vincent Joseph Martin DiMaio, a grandson of Italian immigrants, was born on March 22, 1941, in Brooklyn to Dr. Dominick DiMaio, who in the 1970s would become New York City’s chief medical examiner, and Violet (de Caprariis) DiMaio, a lawyer.

“Since the 1600s, all the men on my mother’s side, with one exception, were doctors,” Vincent DiMaio recalled in “Morgue: A Life in Death” (2016), a memoir he wrote with Ron Franscell. “The lone black sheep was a magistrate.”

“My earliest memory is of seeing my grandmother Carmela, my mother’s mother, lying dead on the dining room table,” Dr. DiMaio wrote in the memoir, which won an Edgar Award for nonfiction. “I was only about five years old, and I didn’t understand death or wakes or funerals or forever. I knew only that I’d never seen my grandmother on top of the table, and never so still. I don’t remember being sad.”

But, he added, “I might have known even then not to cry.”

He attended St. John’s Preparatory School (then in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn) and St. John’s University in Queens. He left college after his junior year to enroll directly in what is now known as the State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, from which he graduated with a medical degree in 1965.

He later trained at Duke University and with Maryland’s chief medical examiner. From 1970 to 1972 he served in the Army Medical Corps, including as chief of the wound ballistics section of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington. He was discharged as a major.

Dr. DiMaio and his three sisters, all of whom also became doctors, were casually introduced to death by their pathologist father.

“He didn’t want us to be afraid of death,” he wrote in his memoir. “He considered his grim work a lifesaving pursuit, an early warning system against epidemics, killers and the simple human tendency to snap to judgment without the benefit of facts.”

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