Autopsies delayed in Mississippi after lab technicians quit

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BATESVILLE, Miss. — Autopsies are being delayed by more than a week in some cases after a number of technicians at the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office quit.

A letter from the Medical Examiner’s Office sent to coroners that said the problem began July 1. It doesn’t address what prompted the resignations.

Right now, the office has only an office administrator, one autopsy technician and two forensic pathologists for the entire state, according to the letter. It warns that the number of autopsies performed “will be drastically reduced” as a result.

“Three a day is what they’re averaging down there now,” said Panola County Coronor Gracie Grant-Gulledge.

Grant-Gulledge said she’s currently holding four bodies as they wait for autopsies, including those of the man and woman shot dead Sunday at a Panola County rap concert.

Grant-Gulledge said she was told Thursday the autopsies wouldn’t be able to take place until sometime next week.

“From talking to the family today, when I told them that she’ll be going down tomorrow, but the autopsy will be next week, ‘We already got services set for Friday.’ I can’t help you. What are you gonna do if she’s not back?” Grant-Gulledge said.

WREG has been tracking backlogs at the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office for years.

In 2018, they touted increased salaries as they tried to hire extra pathologists. Grant-Gulledge said they also need to consider upping salaries for technicians.

“It wouldn’t matter how many pathologists they have doing autopsies. If you only have one tech processing everything, she can only do so much,” Grant-Gulledge said.

WREG asked the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Medical Examiner’s Office, for information about how many technicians quit and how big the autopsy backlog was statewide.

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