Thursday, September 14, 2006

Coroner: Cremate Them And Ask Questions Later

Imagine that you've had a family member missing for weeks, and that you've notified police and the media, who are searching for your loved one. After all hope is lost for finding your loved one, a letter arrives in the mail from the Social Security administration telling you that your loved one's benefits have been terminated because your loved one is deceased. But how can that be you ask? You then learn that the Marion Co. Coroner's office picked up your deceased relative's body which police found in an alley, failed to notify you of his death after identifying him, ships his body off to a local funeral home a few weeks later where his body is cremated and his ashes are subsequently lost. And the police are never notified of the coroner's actions!

You think I'm kidding? I wish I was, but sadly I'm not. That's exactly what WRTV's Jack Rinehart uncovered during his investigation of the disappearance of 51-year-old Carl Southern. Rinehart reports:

Relatives of a man they reported missing in June learned this week that not only was he dead, his remains were cremated -- and that the Marion County coroner's office identified the body months ago but failed to tell them or police -- 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

Carl Southern's relatives said they learned Tuesday in a letter from the Social Security Administration that the 51-year-old Indianapolis man -- who they reported missing on June 20 -- had died.

Through subsequent discussions with Indianapolis police and the coroner's office, they learned that police found a body June 15 and that the coroner's office identified it as Southern on the same day, but neither police nor his relatives were told about the identification.

The coroner's office said it tried unsuccessfully to contact Southern's family, even using newspaper advertisements in an attempt to reach them. But after a few weeks, the office sent the body to a funeral home, which cremated it, Rinehart reported.

"It was just devastating," Southern's sister, Loretta Williams, said. "I couldn’t believe it. I was like, 'What is this?' "

The funeral home told the federal government of Southern's death, so the Social Security Administration sent his family a letter saying it was terminating his benefits. When the letter arrived Tuesday, the SSA succeeded in doing something the coroner's office said it couldn't -- locate Southern's family.

Police Stunned By Revelation

Information on the cause of Southern's death wasn't available, but the coroner's office said it determined that he had cocaine in his system and had suffered a subdural hemorrhage, or bleeding on the brain.

Police investigators -- who said they learned of Southern's death only after his family told them about the Social Security letter -- said information about the body's condition leads them to suspect foul play in the death. But with cremation having taken place, they must investigate without the body.

Authorities said they spent a lot of time looking for Southern since he was reported missing June 20. In late July, they asked the news media to publicize his disappearance, not knowing that the coroner's office had identified his body more than a month beforehand.

"We are flabbergasted about this whole chain of events," said Capt. David Allender, head of the Indianapolis Police Department's missing-persons branch.

Coroner's Office Says It Tried To Reach Family

Police said they now know that they found Southern's body on June 15 in an alley in the 1300 block of Cruft Street. The body was given to the coroner's office as an
unidentified man. With the help of fingerprints and pieces of identification on the body, the coroner's office determined that day that the body was that of Southern, Rinehart reported.

The coroner's office held the body for nearly six weeks. From July 22 to July 24, it ran advertisements in The Indianapolis Star's public notices page, trying to find members of Southern's family, Rinehart reported.

Eventually, the office determined that its efforts to find relatives were unsuccessful, and it gave the body to a funeral home for cremation.

The funeral home is searching for Southern's ashes. Williams, Southern's sister, indicated her trust had been exhausted.

"Even if they came and brought me something, I don’t know if that's my brother or not. I wouldn't believe that it is if they did bring me some ashes or whatever," Williams said.

News of Southern's fate came as the coroner's office was being investigated over allegations that more than $3,000 in cash and property belonging to a deceased man was stolen.

Would leaders of the Marion Co. Democratic Party please come together to explain to Mr. Ackles that he must resign his position immediately? He has forfeited any last remaining right he had to deserving the public's trust.

UPDATE: Jack Rinehart did a follow up report tonight about the police department's displeasure with this turn of events. First, they're upset that they wasted a lot of time and resources looking for Southern because the coroner's office told them they didn't have his body. Secondly, the coroner's office may have compromised a potential murder investigation. It turns out that Southern was last seen being led out of Lugar Towers at gun point. A few days after his body was discovered, Southern's nephew was murdered. As the coroner's office cremated his remains, this may complicate any potential prosecution.


Wilson46201 said...

a usually prolific AnonyMouse commenter here is peculiarly quiet about her own involvement with the Coroner.

That dog isn't barking ... odd, eh?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Wilson, I don't know who you are referring to, but it is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. If you have a beef with Ms. Williams or anyone else, please take it to them directly. This back and forth between between you and others is getting really old. The information written here is not for the benefit of any of these other people you keep dragging into this discussion--none of whom I've ever even met.

Jeff Newman said...

What an outrageous story. The Social Security Administration finds them no problem by just routinely dropping a letter in the mail but the coroner's office can't locate this man's family to notify them of his death?

Someone wrote "tip of the iceberg" in a comment to your previous post about the corner's office, how right he was. What's next I wonder?

Wilson46201 said...

Considering Darla Williams was the attorney then working for the Coroner who deliberately stymied the efforts of experienced office holders and others to give guidance and expertise in setting up his new regime, she in some ways is responsible for some of the difficulties currently encountered. Folk are still aghast at her behavior. Ms. Williams' actions had consequences, AI is writing about them.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Sorry Wilson, but the Marion Co. Dems slated him and then nominated him in the primary 2 years ago. The voters deserve their share of the blame as well since they elected him without bothering to learn anything about his qualifications, or lack thereof, before voting for him. I'm unaware of any legal advice Williams may have provided to Ackles in the past, but I'm sure if she did, it did not pertain to the day-to-day management of the office by Ackles' underlings.

Anonymous said...

If "experienced officeholders" giving "guidance and expertise" is code for: Julia, Carl, Bernetta, Lacy, Carolene, Bill, Glenn, et al getting together to help him set up his office, hell, I'd probably run the other way, too!

Wilson, ya gotta stop serving up softballs like that. Way too easy to hit em over the fence.

"Dr." Ackles won't go quietly into the still night.

Unlike, evidently, some of the corpses he shuffles around.

Word has it he has a weak stomach and won't even attend any of the autopsies.

Bone crackers...why am I surprised?

Dem precinct committeepersons were given almost no choice in this slating. Miss Carson was said to be behind "Dr." Ackles. No countywide candidate gets through slating without kissing her ring.

Cut and run, eh, Julia?

This pathetic public servant needs to look in the mirror, determine if he really needs the $38K per year (plus a car--that seems to be so important so some officeholders).

If he can look at himself, without (figuratively) slitting his throat shaving, he needs to re-visit his morals.

A complete and utter disgrace.

The thing is--how many more stories are there, similar to this one?

Thanks, AI, for starting this kerfuffle.

My thoughts are with this victim's family. Bless them.

Sir Hailstone said...

Wilson: STFU!! Nobody cares about you or the crap you're spewing. Would you like Darla to make that phone call??

Who by law has the authority to begin an impeachment against Mr. Ackles? Someone at the state level? This is beyond pathetic! And to think the county just did a cremation without any concerns over the family. Perhaps some co-ordination with the police would have been in order? how hard would it be to contact missing persons "Hey we found a stiff this look like anyone you're looking for?" and this would have wrapped up with a sad ending instead of the pathetic ending it has now. Ken Ackles must be drinking the same stupid "juice" that Monroe Gray drinks.

Wilson46201 said...

There is no impeachment process for elected county or township officials in Indiana. It's up to the voters. If there's criminality, there's the law enforcement process.

Didnt the GOP get stung bigtime back in 1998 over impeachment nationally? Ask Newt...

Anonymous said...

Wilson must be drinking the cooking sherry again. It's time for Oprah honey...lie back down on the settee and rest a spell.

What the hell does Newt have to do with Hail's question? And a damned good question it was. (When you're right, Hail, you're right...)

I think removal from office is possible. Will research and report back.

Anonymous said...

Wilson, you're constantly admonishing others to be nice in their posts. So I'm being as nice as I can when I say this.
You're an idiot.

Wilson46201 said...

Eric Dickerson knows you cant beat somebody by beating up on them. "Be nice!"

Anonymous said...

I saw this story over on Fix Indy Now this morning and was absolutely aghast. I know you've been covering Ackles' not-quite qualifications for a time now, Gary. Tell me - because I don't know - did Ackles run against anyone? Did the Republicans nominate a candidate? Was that person more qualified than a bone cracker - like a medical examiner or even an MD?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I know Ackles' predecessor, Dr. John McGoff, and he is a medical doctor (an emergency room doctor to be precise). My recollection is that the Republican candidate, Rich Lucht, was also an emergency room doc who had experience as a deputy coroner--presumably he was groomed by McGoff. My understanding was that the Dems didn't expect to win the race so they didn't pay much attention to who they nominated at the time, although a much more qualified person had sought the party's support but was turned aside.

Anonymous said...

Here's the straight Dem scoop, AI:

The Dems thought it would be close, but they might win. The numbers have been trending that way for awhile.

John Linehan, a qualified forensic police officer, tried to run, and was shut out. He's white. Do the math.

Ackles was almost forced to hire Linehan in some sort of deal. Plus, Ackles needed someone qualified, because, God knows, a bone-cracker is barely a medical person.

That working relationship lasted a little over a year. Ackles ran Linehan out. Shoddy work practices, lots of hard feelings, and I think even some legal action.

Same thing happened in the surveyor's race. The Dems ran a lady who's run for virtually every office in the party before. She's a nutcase and everyone knows it. Somehow she escaped through slating...nobody else wanted the office. She won, of course.

McGoff was a qualified medical person, but he had many, many other faults. Ask around.

Who wants the job for 38K a year?
If you're qualified, you're making a lot more.

This job should be appointed, from a field of qualified candidates.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Linehan was also falsely accused of working as a paramedic on the coroner's dime. He was cleared of those charges, and he filed an EEOC complaint against Ackles.

Anonymous said...

Thanks AI I couldn't remmeber if it was EEOC or lawsuit...Linehan got screwed, that's all I remember.

It was very nasty, as I recall.

Anonymous said...

It's been a day or so since this was rasied, and I just cannot get this dead man's family out of my mind. It's like I, as a taxpayer, want to apologize to them.

When a brother or loved one dies, for whatever reason, at 51, that's sad enough. But to have to sit around and think about your dead brother, lying in a morgue while the police wer elooking for him, and nis nephew (?) getting shot, too...obviously, there's more to this story from the family's perspective, but it's guit-wretching.

And the simplest part of this should've been proper disposal of the body.

So very, very sad.

Queen916 said...

I have known Dr. Ackles for over 30 years and have known him to be honorable and ethical prior to him becoming a chiroprator. I do believe that when the facts are in he will be exonerated and his good reputation restored to him.


To Wilson46201-The Two faces of Eve - She destroys, if she can't control.

Julia Carson threatened Dr. Ackles when he first took office because he would not let her dictate to him who to hire or grant contracts to.

She thought she could control a countywide office after he was elected. I find it strange that recently his office has become so controversial that people want him out of the office. Could it be that he was setup by the Ghetto Mafia?

They thought they could control him after he was elected. Dr. Ackles did not join "The Ghetto Mafia".

You keep making references to Atty. Darla Williams. She headed his transition team against the wishes of Julia Carson. The real reason you have begun attacking her.

She switched political parties because of the corruption she witnessed just as I did.

You need to check yourself. You and Tony Duncan, Carson's ex-lover and live-in boyfriend have stuffed ballot boxes illegally, destroyed opponents yard signs, rigged the old voting machines and have ran smear campaigns against her opponents.

You keep attacking me on the blogs for telling the truth about her tactics. I will continue to spread the word about the actions of this gang. It is all true! Can you state the same?

The people are fed up with her reign of terror, harassment and acts of intimidation.

You and others dare to call me a loser. For your information the elections lost were experiments to document all of the techniques used by this gang to win elections in Center Townships. You willingly walked into my trap. That is why I can write about it now.

I know every trick her gang has played on Election Day and before. Voter fraud, voting deceased voters, casting fraudulent absentee ballots, registering voters at addresses where they did not live, listening in on phone calls when she talked to other elected officials.

You see Wilson Allen; I have witnesses to back me up, former employees in the Trustee office, Democrat precinct committeemen, and regular street people. They all talked to me after they were double-crossed by her.

You are a puppet and continue to stand on the front line attacking people for her.

Her gang has tried to silence me all of these years but they can't. Several of her cronies are deceased now who performed dirty tricks on me and other people and new recruits have replaced them.

If you choose to continue to confront me on these blogs, I am prepared to release all of the names of individuals, the roles they played, and the drugs and money they were paid to help steal elections across the board.

You should confess your involvement with this gang while you are writing on all of these websites.

Write about yourself first, and then write about others!

Anonymous said...

Well said Queen.

Anonymous said...

That's it, Queen.

Put up or shut up. Post the names. Or, if you wish, release them to the mainstream media.

You've been making these rants for years. At some point, you have to provide facts.

As for "Dr." Ackles:

First of all, a chiropractor for coroner is just silly. The profession is 50% joke, 25% orthopaedic wonder, and 25% blue smoke and mirrors.

Anyone who cancels a contract for pathologists, less than a year old, with no plan for backup, is seriously deranged.

Anyone who treats John Linehan the way he did, is incompetent.

What has happened in the office now, is criminal.

He should save what little dignity he has left, and leave.

Set up--like, how?

Without AI pointing out the coronere's muscues almost a month ago, the mainstream media might never have known.

So, thanks again, AI.

Anonymous said...

*coroner's miscues

Queen916 said...

Response To Anonymous 8:44

I have put up, with more to come.

Selective media reports on our public officials have been a way of life for too long in this community.

Factual information and public documents have been given to the media when some of these events occurred. They did not bother to report it to the public, nor investigate.

Talk about qualifications; this city has numerous unqualified people serving in public office. It all depends if the person is the one you supported!

At least there is an investigation in progress at the Coroner's office. Wait for the results.

Mayor Bart Peterson is responsible for the misconduct of his appointed officials as well in the Department of Metropolitan Development and other city agencies. No response from him for the Bar/Restaurant in the Julia Carson Government Center permit violations. This is not acceptable.

Should he resign if the mistakes and errors are not corrected?

The Democrats have screamed about the Bureau of Motor Vehicles computer glitches and wants the governor to terminate Mr. Silverman. At least the governor assumed the responsibility for his appointed official.

Should the Governor Daniels resign?

Carl Drummer hired a public relations firm to respond for his support regarding the "Sweetheart Deal" with the investors for the bar/restaurant in a government building.

He has yet to answer to the public about the money spent for contracts and legal fees involved in this business deal. no public announcement went out to the community prior to.

Should he resign?

Where are the denials?

There are numerous untold truths that have not been reported by the media. Thank God for the internet!

Now the information can be published by people who do have bonefide information and not rumors.

Anonymous said...

Who leaked the confidential memo to the press? Did that come from Carl Brizzi's Office? What other information that is still under investigation has been leaked?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Did Southern's family not go to the media to complain about what happened?