This spiteful move by Ackles in firing Radentz and his staff is going to prove very costly to Marion County taxpayers. With a near-record number of murders during the past year, the county will have to pay the outgoing forensic pathologists, who are taking jobs elsewhere around the country, at the rate of $1,500 per day to come back and testify at cases where their testimony is critical. Even worse, bodies will begin piling up in the county's morgue after this Friday until the coroner's office signs a contract with at least one new forensic pathologist. Who in their right mind would accept a job in the Marion County Coroner's office after doing a simple "Google" search of all the stories involving problems within the office over the past year? And if Ackles hires the one candidate who has been rumored for the past several weeks, expect a major uproar.
A flap involving the Marion County coroner's office could stall or jeopardize homicide investigations and prosecutions, officials warned Monday.
Forensic pathologists under contract until Dec. 19 will start no new autopsies after Thursday because of the time required to finish ongoing work.
County Coroner Kenneth Ackles, who ended the contract with Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana, told city and county officials at a meeting Monday that there would be no interruption in service but offered few details about his plans.
"We have located several candidates," Ackles said. "We will announce a decision shortly, within 21 days."
County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he was alarmed at the possibility that no new autopsies would be performed for more than two weeks.
"We need to know the situation, and we need to have a backup plan," Brizzi said.
Brizzi said there already is a backlog of 35 murder cases that can't move forward because the autopsy reports aren't available.
Dr. Stephen Radentz, the lead partner in the pathology firm, said after the meeting that there is no backlog of cases from his end. He said there could be a lag with coroner's employees copying, filing and distributing final reports.
However, the average case takes eight to 12 weeks to complete, so it won't be possible to finish all pending cases, he said. Radentz said he has been pushing for a transition plan from the coroner for months before finally agreeing to a Dec. 1 date as the last possible moment to begin wrapping up.
"It will be like going into a typical hospital, with patients in various states, and taking out all the doctors and telling new ones to figure it out," Radentz said. "There will definitely be problems."
Ackles, a chiropractor, got into a shouting match with officials questioning him about plans to avoid a backup, which Brizzi said could complicate murder prosecutions and contribute to prison crowding.
"I'm the coroner of Marion County," Ackles said repeatedly, "and I'm telling you there won't be an interruption in service."
Because there is a such a small candidate pool of potential applicants, it is more than likely that any replacement would come from out-of-state. A new hire would have to be licensed by the State of Indiana before he/she could perform any autopsies for the county. As of about a week ago, no potential candidates had applied for a license with the State of Indiana. It could be many weeks before Marion County has a qualified person in place to perform autopsies, let alone the team of about three which will be needed for the long-term to meet the county's and surrounding counties' needs.