State Medical Examiner resigns, leaves unfinished work, holes in investigations
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - State Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Levaughn has been on administrative leave since November. On Thursday, he resigned, leaving a lot for investigators, prosecutors, and coroners to deal with in his wake.
Today, Department of Public Safety Spokesman Chris Vignes confirmed that Levaughn had ended his decade of tenure with the State Medical Examiner’s office.
DPS officials have been silent on anything about LeVaughn’s situation other than to say it is a personnel matter. So far there are no confirmed charges against LeVaughn, nor will the Attorney General’s office confirm whether an investigation centered on him exists.
Levaughn’s departure is far from ideal timing. With only three medical examiners in the state, his name is on at least a third of the ongoing investigations.
“Oh my goodness, it’s a tremendous problem we’re fixing to have,” said District 17 DA John Champion. “It’s a tremendous problem we already have.”
Champion said his district has about 12 autopsies they’re waiting on in order to be able to go to trial.
Hinds County DA Jody Owens said his numbers are in the hundreds.
“Before last year, we had 88 autopsies that were outstanding before the Mississippi State Crime Lab,” Owens said. “And as you know, we had 137 murders in our county last year.”
And it’s not just law enforcement that need autopsies done. Coroners around the state have suffered from the backlog caused by the ME shortage for years, but lately even getting an autopsy scheduled is an issue.
“We can basically expect two week or more time period from the time of someone’s death until the time we can have an autopsy scheduled,” said Madison County coroner Alex Breeland.
Another question is how to move forward without LeVaughn himself.
“What’s going to happen to the cases that he hasn’t done the report on yet,” he said. “And who’s going to testify for us?”
Officials say other medical examiners will have to testify in his place and complete LeVaughn’s unfinished work from his notes.
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