As Erie County's chief medical examiner, Dr. Justin M. Uku was involved in many of the area's high-profile cases and contributed his expertise to nationally publicized investigations.
But there was one case he didn't want to touch: the defense of O.J. Simpson following the 1994 double murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Dr. Uku died Monday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Town of Tonawanda. He was 86.
Born in Nigeria, Dr. Uku attended Glasgow University in Scotland. In an interview years ago with The Buffalo News, he said he was inspired by an uncle who was a doctor and professor of surgery at the University of Nigeria.
Dr. Uku worked in Nigeria before emigrating to the United States. He had lived in Washington, D.C., before moving to Buffalo in 1973.
He worked for the Erie County medical examiner's office from 1973 until 2000, serving as chief medical examiner since 1981. He also had served as a coroner for Cattaraugus and Niagara counties.
In the Erie County medical examiner's office, Dr. Uku worked on some of the most sensational and controversial homicide investigations, including the deaths of suspects in police custody and the murder of a North Tonawanda man whose body was entombed in concrete in the basement of a home.
He testified before the grand jury in the case of Tawana Brawley, the Dutchess County teenager who claimed in 1987 that she was abducted and raped by several police officers.
But Dr. Uku declined to be a defense witness in what was referred to as "The Trial of the Century." It ended with the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, the former star running back of the Buffalo Bills.
While Simpson's trial was ongoing, famed defense attorney F. Lee Bailey flew to Buffalo to meet with Dr. Uku.
"He didn't want to get involved," said the former Elaine Szuperski, the doctor's wife. "He thought O.J. was guilty."
"They wanted him to testify against the medical examiners in Los Angeles," she said.
Besides his wife, Dr. Uku is survived by four sons, John, David, Justin P. and Ayo C.; three daughters, Barbara A. Ojeme, Leslie and Melissa; three brothers, Raymond, Reginald and Conrad; and three sisters, Julie Ikomi, Vivian and Eustace.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:15 a.m. Saturday in St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, 885 Sweet Home Road, Amherst, after prayers at 8:30 in Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.