Autopsies delayed statewide, possibly caused by State Crime Lab employees quitting

Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 9:21 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Coroners statewide are dealing with another setback from the State Crime Lab. They are being told to expect even more delays in processing bodies.

WLBT has learned that it is the result of crime lab technicians walking off the job.

“We need help from the state with the conditions that are happening at the State Medical Examiners Office,” said Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham Stewart. Stewart is president of the Mississippi Coroners Association.

She is also the medical examiner for the county with the state’s highest homicide rate.

July 1, the State Medical Examiners Office informed coroners that they are reducing the hours bodies will be accepted for autopsies. Some could expect to wait more than a week.

“Fourth of July weekend I believe we had five homicides,” said Stewart. “We had to store those individuals for almost a week before we could transport them to the State Medical Examiners Office.”

Hinds County currently has three deceased residents awaiting transport to the crime lab. Two are children.

Rankin County Coroner David Ruth says it is a bad situation and said he was told it would be a week before he could take a body to the crime lab.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell was not available to answer questions about employees quitting, staffing vacancies or other details.

“Hinds County doesn’t have a morgue so I have to be creative sometimes of where I can temporarily hold human remains,” said the coroner.

According to Stewart, some coroners have retrieved bodies from the crime lab without autopsies for burial to appease families.

The Coroner’s Association president said this could damage the cases for District Attorneys who would need forensic documentation for future trials.

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