WV Makes National Headlines for Mistake in Medical Examiner’s Office

From the Associated Press and found at FoxNews.Com:

Note: The state medical examiners in West Virginia, who are state employees, make mistakes like anyone else. However, the only time they will ever admit it is when they are caught red-handed. If you ever have the pleasure of having one of them testify against you in a trial, you will see that they put neutrality and science aside and concentrate on achieving the objectives of the State of West Virginia – be it for prosecutors or the State Police. Don’t let them fool you, their ultimate goal is not the truth, it is conviction. – John H. Bryan, West Virginia criminal defense attorney.

Wrong Body Accidentally Buried in W.Va. After Coroner Confuses Fire Victims


Authorities mistakenly released the body of an adult woman to the family of a 2-year-old fire victim, and the woman’s body was buried in the girl’s grave, officials said.
A routine office check at the state Medical Examiner’s Office earlier this week showed that the body of Victoria Hope Starcher of Cottageville was still there. The child and her brother, 4-year-old Joseph Allen Starcher II, were both killed Feb. 8 when their two-story house caught fire.

Funeral services for the children were held Feb. 15 in Jackson County, said John Law, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Law said the employee who mistakenly released the woman’s body probably failed to check a label on the body bag against information identifying the remains. The woman, who has not been identified, also was a fire victim who was killed in a different blaze.

Officials are investigating and disciplinary action could be taken if any wrongdoing is found, Law said.

Dr. James Kaplan, the state’s chief medical examiner, and state Bureau of Public Health acting chief Ron Forren informed the girl’s parents, Joseph Starcher and Tammy Scarberry, of the mistake Tuesday.

“I understand that they were extremely upset as can be expected, but they were also very impressed that Dr. Kaplan took the time to personally drive to Jackson County and explain to them what happened,” Law said Wednesday. “They assured the family that DHHR would assume all the cost of exhuming the body, getting the right body to them and doing whatever we have to do to make it right.”

There were no telephone listings for Starcher or Scarberry in the Cottageville area.

Law said the woman’s body will be exhumed after a circuit judge issues an order, which is required for exhumations.

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