News of retired Chief Medical Examiner of Guam Dr. Aurelio Espinola’s death was announced by his family on social media Wednesday.

As a child, Espinola dreamed of becoming a farmer, but his life’s path took him in a different direction, born out of circumstances that were beyond his control.

He had a sick brother who was refused care by a doctor because of his inability to pay. Espinola decided to become a doctor. Years later, his medical career eventually led him to the island where he became well respected over the years.

Espinola was awarded with the Ancient Order of the CHamori in 2019, a token affirming his service to the island bestowed by Guam's governor.

“Dr. Espinola has gained respect from the judges of the Guam Supreme Court and Superior Court, jurists, law enforcement agencies both local and federal and the Guam Medical Association. His stint here in Guam started when he made a brief stopover in Guam when another kababayan local physician Dr. Ernesto Espaldon invited him to settle in Guam and accept a medical job,” it was noted in his Order of the CHamori award ceremony.

Espinola served as Guam’s Chief Medical Examiner for 25 years, filling a role within the community that has helped bring justice and closure to many families.

“I've worked with Dr. E. both as an assistant attorney general and as the attorney general. He was always very professional in his work. With his busy schedule, he still made time to meet to discuss our cases together,” said Lenny Rapadas, assistant attorney general. “Dr. E was also very personable and friendly. I considered him a friend and will miss him.” 

For decades, he worked alongside law enforcement and also helped shape the minds of aspiring criminal justice students, according to Frank Ishizaki, former chief of police, former FBI special agent and current University of Guam instructor.

“He was great member of the criminal justice system for Guam. He did a lot for Guam and I am saddened to hear of his passing,” Ishizaki said.

He recalled working with Espinola over the years.

“He did a good service for Guam and also the region because he did (medical examiner) work for the (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), for Micronesia. He liked working. He really liked working. We were friends. I taught, so when I needed a medical examiner to talk about his role in criminal investigations, he was always willing,” Ishizaki said.

Ishizaki recalled the times he would meet Espinola for lunch prior to the doctor relocating to the Philippines, following his retirement.

“We had lunch and he always picked up the tab. It's like, 'Come on it's my turn,'” Ishizaki recalled with a laugh. “You know what? When he was leaving, I asked, 'What are you going to do?' And he said, ‘Well, I am going to open a beauty salon.’”

Espinola spent the last days of his life in the Philippines surrounded by family. Those The Guam Daily Post spoke with offered their condolences to Espinola’s loved ones during their time of grief.

“Dr. Espinola served our community and helped secure justice for countless victims and their families over the years. We are grateful for his commitment to our island and we extend our thoughts and condolences to his family,” said Attorney General Leevin Camacho.

Espinola not only worked with local government authorities but also worked with local media over the years, answering calls and responding to inquiries. The governor’s communications director, Krystal Paco-San Agustin, was one of those reporters.

“I’m heartbroken to learn of the passing of former chief medical examiner, Dr. Aurelio Espinola. During my career as a news reporter assigned to the crime beat, I was always eager to interview him and learn more about his latest autopsy findings. More than his work in the morgue and on the field solving crimes and bringing closure to countless families, he was a great teacher, and he helped me to understand the mechanics of everything from gunpowder to stab wounds and car crashes. He truly is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met, which is why I enjoyed my regular visits to his office and our encounters at the courthouse during a big trial. He loved to share with me about his early career, bringing life into this world as an OB-GYN and later as a doctor for the dead. He will surely be missed,” said Paco-San Agustin. 

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