Medical examiner quits after declaring that bloody, stabbed corpse had died of "natural causes"

It’s how Elliott Smith died.


Right up there with, “Fell down an elevator shaft onto some bullets”.


You reminded me of the Sheridan case:


It still seems appallingly lazy on her part: death is one of the places where you have the exquisite opportunity to use science words to recast your impression that someone is undeserving into an objective sounding account of how they, indeed, brought this upon themselves by doing and being whatever it is we like, and identify with, least about them.

Someone who cared about standards and professionalism in systemic injustice could have done just as much to advance a miscarriage of justice by ignoring the signs of murder; but indulged their catalog of the consequences of being a poor degenerate druggy with grim, lurid, enthusiasm; not just a bland ‘natural causes’.

(edit: sadly enough, the article even has a decent example of what I have in mind: Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office Chief Investigator Eddie Reeves features in the below quote:

“Earlier this week, Reeves said medications being taken by Neal at the time of his death could have added to bleeding and confusion. He also said despite the mistake, the case was not compromised.”

That is more like it. Don’t just let the situation pass in least-effort silence; blame the victim for the fact that you horribly botched his case, speculate(likely baselessly, since not much medical examining was done) on his recent drug use; and finally insist that your errors certainly aren’t the kind of problem that would lead to someone else taking over and perhaps doing a better job. We can see why she is resigning in shame and he’s leading the operation.)


My first reaction was negligence because {gestures vaguely to American society}, but yeah, these things also do happen. (In the rural county where some of my family live, there was a questionable death and a lot of people were sure it was a murder, with the prime suspect someone closely related to the medical examiner… who declared it an accidental death.) Then there’s also the overlap, where racism blends the dividing line between negligence and cover-up, too.

I was thinking of those cases where someone got arrested, searched by the police, handcuffed with their hands behind their back, stuck in the back of a police car… and then supposedly shot themselves in the front of their chest… Sometimes the cops don’t even bother with “this is ridiculous but plausible” by tossing out the “plausible” part.


Well, “overworked and underpaid” just means she doesn’t own all the blame.

I hate that it is used as a status quo excuse for the rapid slide towards dystopia we are experiencing.

It’s an old, old joke. I heard a very similar one from Groucho Marx ^^’.

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I was gonna say, it’s entirely believable that there were some weird circumstances that could have led to someone stabbing a person who had already expired from natural causes, and it would take a trained medical examiner to determine the actual cause without jumping to conclusions.

But nope, looks like it’s just racism/negligence in this case. Fuck.

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My hometown got itself in the national news in the 80s when the man who had been my Scoutmaster was found in his basement with 32 hammer blows to the back of his head. The coroner declared it a suicide, to worldwide ridicule. I seem to recall that the city brought in an outside expert to make this determination.

I don’t recall that the case was ever solved, but he’d just had a relapse of his lung cancer, and it was thought that he had a suicide pact with a friend, who took his own life shortly thereafter. But there was other small-town dirt regarding his estranged step-daughter, her felon boyfriend (who had the convenient alibi of being in jail in Florida at the time), and his second marriage, born of an affair with another Scoutmaster’s wife. Sad end to a guy who had been a role model for a lot of young men.

Yeah, came here to say all of this wording is confusing and inaccurate. I went back to the source article and found it worded slightly better.

The order this happened in in real life would be:

  1. Body is found in blood
  2. Death investigator called to scene
  3. Autopsy ordered, done by pathologists and technicians who collect evidence and make recommendations
  4. Death certificate signed off by county coroner, an elected official

So the death investigator doesn’t determine cause of death, as I understand it. All of this reporting is screwy.

That doesn’t negate the fact that this person was definitely very wrong and probably motivated by race and socioeconomic status to close the case quickly and without thought or effort. I’m just not sure what their position in this chain of command actually was, from either article.

Maybe it’s just early and I’m tired.

Yeah, but all you’ve got to do is pour hydrogen peroxide on the caked on blood. All organic matter washes away, leaving any inorganic residue (in case of bullet holes) and making breaks in skin apparent. Standard when there’s caked on blood and part of the very initial part of the autopsy.

Sorry I keep replying specifically to you. You sound like you know how these things work, I’m trying to add this information for everybody else in the thread, if that makes sense.

If it’s not “blocked for legal reasons”, Gila’s “¿Está el enemigo? Que se ponga” sketch is the most recognizable one, and one that hasn’t aged badly:


Muchas gracias!

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The original ‘Lowering the Bar’ post suggested that she knew the victim had Hepatitis C and didn’t want to come into contact with his blood.

No problem.

And yes, hydrogen peroxide will wash away the blood, but if the investigator does that on scene, then any particulates that could be useful evidence for a murder investigation will also be washed away. It’s sort of a no-win scenario.

Someone else mentioned that lack of investigation was probably due to laziness or lack of concern because of the victim’s socioeconomic status. I don’t know anything about that investigator, so it is possible either way, but typically once the investigator arrives on scene, it is really no more trouble to bring in the body than to send it on its way to a funeral home. There may be a few minutes difference in how the report is typed up, but that’s pretty insignificant compared to the time it takes to drive to the scene, speak with officers, wait for transport, and get back.

The investigator could have failed due to any number of reasons. In addition to the blame most are placing on the investigator, there could have also been pressure from on-scene law enforcement, who would have considerable extra work if a supposed natural death was turned into a homicide investigation. There could also be pressure from the medical examiner to bring in fewer bodies — either indirect pressure (insufficient pathology staff for the workload) or direct pressure (on-call pathologist telling the investigator to try to avoid bringing in decedents because they want to be done early). It’s not possible from a single news story to know what happened, and rushing to judgment does absolutely nothing to solve a problem.

Yes, we know the investigator left the agency, but everyone knows scapegoating never ever happens, especially not in a very likely underfunded government agency. Not possible.

No, hydrogen peroxide isn’t used at the scene. It’s used on the autopsy table after photos have been taken and all superficial evidence thoroughly examined.

Source: I do an autopsy field trip with my students once every 12 weeks.

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That’s plausible? But in the autopsy room we just assume everything is covered in hepatitis all the time. I play a game with my students that I call “The floor is hepatitis” to get them to glove up and use PPE (personal protection equipment) appropriately. It’s like the floor is lava, but for hepatitis.


True. You could be exposed to anything at any time.

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