Without a morgue, Hinds Co. considers refrigerated trucks to store bodies while autopsies are delayed

Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 6:58 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Recent autopsy delays at the State Medical Examiner’s Office shed light on problems counties have been struggling with for years.

Hinds County has no morgue and with the state’s highest death rate is without space to store bodies.

Supervisors are scrambling to find a temporary fix.

“It baffles me that the Capitol City doesn’t have a morgue,” said Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham Stewart.

For more than three years the 21 year medical examiner has used several private storage facilities for the deceased until they could be autopsied.

She’s working out of an office at the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department but has no place for victims to identify loved ones. Recently that was the case for a 14 year old awaiting autopsy.

"I had to retrieve the child from the temporary morgue space transport it to a funeral home and allow the family to come there to positively identify the body and then transport it back to a temporary storage facility," said Grisham Stewart.

When Hinds County Board of Supervisor Robert Graham learned of the latest autopsy delays he began searching for storage space.

"This is a very very dire situation that we're dealing with in Hinds County," said Graham.

The board president said the State Legislature gave the county the old State Crime Lab, but structural problems prevented its use.

Other locations the board found have not been safe or suitable for a morgue, according to the coroner.

Escalating homicide and deaths have forced county officials to locate sources for temporary use.

“They feel as if we will be able to get a refrigerated truck capable of holding 40 deceased individuals,” said Graham. “We also have two other possible sources that we’re looking at.”

Graham hopes to have a truck by Friday.

The county has also purchased 100 additional body bags.

He said a permanent morgue could cost up to $2 million dollars, money the county does not have in these unprecedented times.

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