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Dr. Gerald Vale, forensic dentistry expert, dies at 87


Dr. Gerald Vale
Poway, Calif.—Forensic dentistry expert Dr. Gerald Vale died July 19. He was 87.

Dr. Vale served as the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner's chief forensic dental consultant and testified in hundreds of criminal and civil trials as an expert forensic dentist. He was a founding member and diplomate emeritus of the American Board of Forensic Odontology.

Dr. Vale was one of many dentists who traveled to New York City after the 9/11 attacks to help identify victims.

Along with his friend, Dr. Norman "Skip" Sperber, he also testified in a famous trial in Phoenix in 1996: the People vs. Krone.

Ray Krone was found guilty of murdering a female bartender, despite the expert testimony of Drs. Vale and Sperber, who said a bite mark found on the woman could not have been from Mr. Krone.

After spending 10 years in prison, two of which were on death row, DNA evidence cleared Mr. Krone of any wrongdoing, and he was released.

"Dr. Vale and I were both very upset because our opinion that Mr. Krone was innocent was not used in the first place," said Dr. Sperber, a forensic odontologist who worked on a number of cases with Dr. Vale.

Dr. Vale graduated from New York University Dental School; served in the U.S. Coast Guard as a dental officer; and earned several more degrees, including a master of dental surgery degree in orthodontics from the Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California, a law degree from Southwestern University and a master of public health degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Vale spent 18 years in private orthodontics practice in Hollywood, Calif., and returned to USC as a clinical associate professor.

He was a part-time faculty member there for more than 30 years, holding a number of leadership positions, including associate dean of hospital affairs and interim dean.

He was appointed dental director of Los Angeles County's Department of Health Services and, in 1979, became director of dentistry at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center.

Dr. Vale also founded LAC+USC's general practice residency programs.

He was vice president of the California Board of Dental examiners, president of the ABFO, a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and received that organization's Distinguished Fellow Award in 2004.

Dr. Vale is survived by his wife, Sydelle; his son, Donald (Sydney); and grandchildren Alina and Bryce.

"He was a very focused person. He was very very methodical," Dr. Sperber said. "He was a very amazing person."