MS coroners experience autopsy backlog,delaying criminal investigations

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GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Miss. (WCBI)- For an investigation to be completed, state medical examiners must perform an autopsy.

This report can distinguish the cause of death.

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However, some coroners say they’ve waited months, even years for the answers to their questions.

While the chart continues to pile up, local coroners face the obstacle to keep investigations ongoing.

Nearly 3 million people live in the state of Mississippi. Only two are certified medical examiners.

Over the last couple of months, local coroners have experienced a backlog in autopsies. Some believe examiners are swamped with cases.

” It’s troubling for several coroners here in the state of Mississippi,” said Noxubee County Coroner R.L. Calhoun.

Calhoun says he’s still waiting on toxicology results from 4 years ago.

” I have a case as far back as 2016 that I have no results. I recently have one now six months that’s for results on and the law enforcement and district attorney,” said Calhoun.

Pearl and Biloxi, that’s where two-state crime labs are.What was once a swift examination is now taking longer than usual.

Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley says local coroners rely on other facilities and local funeral homes for storage.

” From time to time, there are other counties that do ask me to hold them for them until the state medical examiner can take them. Right now, the state medical examiner has their morgue inside the building. The morgue can hold 20 inside. They also have two trucks outside for overflow,” said Gurley.

Not only are law enforcement and district attorneys delayed to finish a case, but families also have to hold off on funerals and completion of death certificates.

” If I tell them when can even get an autopsy, it’ll probably be two to three weeks before you can have a funeral. Most of the time, the family backs off, and let’s not even go down that route,” said Gurley.

” Families want to plan things to have a service for their loved ones. We can’t because we won’t have the results in time. That’s another two or three weeks on the family. Our hands-on our tied,” said Calhoun.

Mississippi has two people who perform autopsies. It’s still an obstacle to inspect several bodies.

And it’s not due to financial reasons. It depends on who wants the job.

” We can only hire two or three at a time at the most here. It’s not a budget problem. The legislation and Governor have been behind hiring more people. There’s money to do it. If you look across the country, they’re just not available,” said Gurley.

Some autopsy procedures may be completed faster than others. Often time, it’s based on the severity and nature of the case.