John Gagliano, for decades the Orleans Parish coroner’s chief investigator, retired Friday.

Coroner Jeffrey Rouse said that Brian Lapeyrolerie, who most recently served as interim chief investigator for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, assumed Gagliano’s role effective Monday.

For many years, Gagliano also was the man news reporters would call to find out the identity of bodies and autopsy results.

While Civil Service records show that Gagliano, 70, retired last week, he continued in his role as office spokesman as recently as Sunday and had given no hint of any plans to leave the office.

Rouse, who replaced longtime Coroner Frank Minyard in May, said only that the abrupt departure was based on Gagliano’s decision to retire.

During his campaign, Rouse said he planned to ask all of the office’s employees to resign and reapply for their jobs. He declined to say Monday whether Gagliano reapplied for his position.

Messages left Monday for Gagliano were not returned.

“We are grateful for John’s 44 years of service to the Coroner’s Office and to our community,” Rouse said in a prepared statement. “Through all of the challenges this office has faced, including the historic effort to identify and care for those deceased during Hurricane Katrina, John has devoted himself to serving our city. His work ethic is legendary, and his presence will be missed by all of us at the Coroner’s Office.

“As we seek to modernize and transform our office, I am grateful for John’s assistance during the transition.”

Gagliano, who worked under four coroners and once held dual positions as the chief investigator and a WWL-TV cameraman, began his career with the office in August 1967.

He was named chief investigator in January 1970, according to Civil Service Department records. He left the office on Dec. 31, 1971, and returned in April 1974. He resigned again in October 1974 but returned in July 1980.

For decades, Gagliano was present at the scene of almost every homicide, questionable death and traffic fatality in the city, especially in recent years when the office, which operates on a shoestring budget, could afford only two investigators.

Lapeyrolerie graduated from Xavier University with a degree in biology and has worked for State Police and as a certified emergency medical technician in the New Orleans area, Rouse said.

“Brian’s expertise and professionalism is well known in the law enforcement community, and I am confident that he will be a true asset for my office and for our city as a whole,” Rouse said. “His experience in investigations and in direct patient care makes him an ideal ... death investigator.”

“I am excited for this new opportunity that combines my background in the criminal justice system and in the health care system,” Lapeyrolerie said. “I am looking forward to joining Dr. Rouse in our effort to bring the citizens of New Orleans the Coroner’s Office it deserves.”

Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.