Family Worries ME's Situation Will Delay Answers into Daughter's Death
Posted: Feb 05, 2010 8:09 PM CST
Updated: Feb 06, 2010 1:14 PM CST
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Recent happenings at the State Medical Examiner's Office are proving to be a nightmare for a Garvin County family.
Former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Collie Trant was in the process of determining how Donna and Joe Turner's daughter died in 2000 when he was placed on suspension. Now after Trant was fired from the M.E.'s office Friday, the couple said they don't know if they'll ever get answers.
Twenty-three-year-old Chanda Turner was found shot to death in July of 2000 outside her home in Pauls Valley. At the time, her boyfriend was inside the home and said he never heard a gunshot. The death was ruled a suicide.
"There is no way it could have happened the way they said it did," Joe Turner said.
No autopsy was done, so last year the family had a medical examiner from Colorado look at the investigation reports and crime scene pictures. He told the Turners that in his 24 years of experience, he had never seen a case with as much alteration of a crime scene, and it was his opinion that their daughter's was most likely a homicide and certainly not a suicide.
The family's attorney said the evidence for a homicide is overwhelming.
"I think it is unconscionable that this family has had to go outside the state of Oklahoma to get a competent medical examiner to tell them what we all know," said Jaye Mendros, the Turner family's attorney.
Last December, Chanda's body was exhumed and Dr. Collie Trant did the autopsy while the Colorado doctor looked on. The Turners said Trant told them he would change the cause of death to homicide, but the paperwork was never done.
"All we want now is for the medical examiner to do their job, whoever's taking Dr. Trant's place, to do their job so we can move forward," Mendros said.
The ME's office said, despite what Dr. Trant may have told the family, no official ruling on the cause of death has been made. The case will now be turned over to Dr. Duvall to make that determination.
"We know our daughter did not commit suicide. Now we got physical evidence from the autopsy showing she didn't, and now we can't get a report from the M.E.'s office," said
The Garvin County District Attorney's office, said the Turners has asked the Grand Jury to investigate the case.
And now we have this mess....
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Bodies stack up at Oklahoma examiner’s office
BY MATT DINGER The Oklahoman Comments 11 Published: February 21, 2010
Amid the turmoil surrounding the position of the chief medical examiner, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner quietly slips into further disrepair.
A lack of space and outdated equipment in the 30-year-old building is causing most of the problems, spokeswoman Cherokee Ballard said. Some days — especially Mondays — the number of bodies coming into the office exceeds its storage space.
"It’s gotten to the point where they have to stack people on the floor. No one would like to see their loved one like that, but on a busy Monday, that’s what we have to do,” Ballard said. Autopsies are usually conducted on weekdays, but the office receives bodies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Two tables in the autopsy room and some sinks and shelving in the toxicology laboratory are rusted. Tissue specimens are stored on racks in the building’s garage. Boxes of files top the full file cabinets lining the walls.
But files aren’t the only things the office is struggling to store. Eleven unidentified corpses were still in the freezers late last week, one of which has been there for six years, Ballard said.
"I talked to a woman today whose son died in June, and she still doesn’t have a death certificate,” Ballard said recently in her office, which is an old storage closet.
Some autopsies may take longer than others because certain test results take longer to get.
But the backlog is such that there are delays of more than a year in some cases, she said.
"We’re doing our best to keep going,” Ballard said.
So far, the Oklahoma City Police Department hasn’t been affected by the medical examiner’s backlog, Capt. Patrick Stewart said. The FBI’s Oklahoma City office declined comment on the issue while officials at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma County District’s Attorney’s Office didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, chairman of the public safety and judiciary appropriations subcommittee, recently visited the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 901 N Stonewall, with committee member Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City. He said he was appalled at what he found.
"That situation is just absolutely unacceptable. What if that was your loved one? Would you really want them at the bottom of that pile? I think most people would find that objectionable,” Terrill said.
"For the longest time, you had Dr. Fred Jordan down there who ran a tight ship. Upon the departure of Dr. Jordan — and I’m not pinning it on one particular person — but things began to slip and slide downhill to the point where now to the independent outside view, it looks like it’s on the brink of cratering,” he said.
Terrill proposes that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner be moved to the University of Central Oklahoma campus, where the agency can lease a facility built to specification but also maintain its autonomy. This contrasts with a previous push by some to make the agency part of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
"That would create a very unique, one-of-a-kind synergy that cannot be found in any other state in the nation. It would be something for which Oklahoma would become known in a positive way, instead of a negative one,” he said.
But until that facility can be built, Terrill is proposing some funds be made available to hire more employees.
"There is an acute pathologist shortage. We were already two pathologists down at the M.E., and with Dr. (Collie M.) Trant gone, we are now short two in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa. What that inevitably is going to mean is that the backlog is going to get worse unless immediate financial resources are brought to bear on the situation,” he said.
Trant, the state’s former chief medical examiner, was fired Feb. 5 by the board that oversees the medical examiner’s office.
Ballard also said a temporary worker hired to help with the paperwork backlog had to be let go because there wasn’t enough money to pay him.
"All these various agencies have been taking across-the-board cuts for quite some time. I don’t know how much more substantial of a cut that it is that they (the medical examiner) can take,” Terrill said.
"The vast majority of the people I met down there are doing their daily job to the best of their ability. Doing a job that not a lot of other people want or are willing to do and under some very difficult circumstances. I think we owe it to them, and to those folks that have lost a loved one,” Terrill said.
TONIGHT ON INTIMATE PARTNER HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION; JOIN SUSAN MURPHY-MILANO, SHERYL McCOLLUM, AND HOLLY HUGHES AS THEY DISCUSS THE SHOCKING CASE OF CHANDA TURNER. WAS IS MURDER OR SUICIDE ? YOU’LL BE SHOCKED AT THE NEGLIGENCE IN THIS CASE.
ALSO TONIGHT IPHI RADIO WILL FOCUS ON THE DISAPPEARANCE 26 YEARS AGO OF MARY BADARACCO
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I just figured out today that I know this family. Just mind blowing that I know two victims families who are both being treated so unfairly by the same system! I am so incredibly sad and mad that this has been allowed to happen! I am not sure that any links will say but this being covered up because her boyfriend (who was at the scene of her "suicide") is the step-son of a lawyer in Pauls Valley.
Justice for Sheila Deviney, Chandra Turner and Tom Horton, the Garvin County 3!!!!
We have problems in Oklahoma. There are also major issues at OSBI (OKlahoma State Bureau of Investigations).
there have been huge problems in okla law enforcement for years. they are decades behind in technology, they still subscribe to the good old boys rule book which says, status is more important than substance and enough powerful contacts will get you out of anything. that is the norm in law enforcement all over oklahoma. this is such a horrific situation for the turners to have to live through. for the system to add ugly insult to gut wrenching injury in this family is inexcusable.
"love is made of music and laughter" turtle
Among the families are Donna and Joe Turner. For 10 years they've been fighting the Oklahoma medical examiner's office to find out what really happened to their daughter Chanda. But after finally getting an autopsy last year, they're still struggling with the office over an incomplete and inaccurate death certificate.
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Oklahoma parents offer $100,000 reward in quest to find killer (Daily Oklahoman)
Chanda Turner was 23 when she was shot in the chest in 2000. Her death was ruled a suicide then,
but new developments have led the Garvin County Sheriff's office to open an homicide investigation.
Whom did the gun belong to? I Listen to the radio broadcast from PBS. Great details about the crime scene. Diffinately does not sound like a suicide. Shot in the chest. Boyfriend heard nothing? In that area I assumed it would be quite in the late evening. Not sure how one would not hear the shot if there was no silence on the weapon. Any idea on the type of gun used? Murder to look like a suicide, that s why the gun was left there. Probably assumed it would be classified as suicide at the scene and no official autopsy would be perform or investigation to say other wise. Taken 10 years to finally make it murder. Wonder what the bf has been up to these last 12 years?
Any one other than the parents perhaps claim any life insurance money? At twenty three she may had have some policy somewhere. That was the plan. Kill her make it look like suicide and tell the cops she was suicidal. They also mentioned blood was found inside.
Would like to read more about this case. Ill check for sites online and see what I can find.
I went to school with this girl (she was quite a bit older than me) and my family has been acquainted with her family for generations. Praying for a resolution.
Chanda's mom just shared this on Facebook and I thought it would be beneficial to share it here:
All posts are my opinion and nothing more.
“...and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”
― Audre Lorde