Ask a Coroner Q&A – Part 3

Let’s dive in to all of your questions for our lovely coroner! Thank you to everyone who has submitted a question – for your interest, patience, and willingness to be involved.


My brother took a overdose and died last week. The doctor knew he was depressed, and his wife, but there was still 150 sleeping tablets in the house and 100 depression tablets. He took all of these plus some others. It seems strange so many where at easy reach…what should I do?

You should mourn for the loss of your brother.  There is nothing you can do.  If there were a thousand pills it wouldn’t change anything, he is the one who had the personal responsibility to take the medication as directed. I’m sorry your family had to suffer such a loss, but I am sure your brother had demons he just didn’t have to strength to battle anymore.  It’s not an excuse – it’s a sudden and irrational ‘answer’ to a problem without the ability at the moment to really know and understand the long term consequences on himself and the family.


Will dry ice put in my C-PAP machine kill me?

I don’t know, so I’m going to err on the safe side and say, ‘yes’.  Please don’t attempt this.


What is the best lab in the country to test for arsenic poisoning? Are fingernail and toenail scrapings and hair as good as analysis of liver and spinal and eye fluid to determine if poisoning has occurred  If someone has been poisoned, can they be given an antidote to remove the residue in the internal organs? I think my father was poisoned. Carlson lab showed a level of 6134 in their analysis of hair, but the autopsy performed in Mississippi and with NMS labs says body is clean. Behavior of wife is heinous so consistent with first positive result. Not sure how to proceed after autopsy. If we should get a third test done?

I’m not sure I understand your question.  I think you are saying that Carlson Lab showed a positive level in their hair analysis, whereas NMS Labs did not show any findings.  If this is truly a concern, and you have evidence to back up a possibility – you could go through the FBI.  My favorite toxicologist is Dr. John Trestail.  He specializes in toxicology related murders and will work with your police agency – if you have a police agency willing to work with you.


Hi Jacquie, I am outlining a mystery fiction novel, and am wondering about the following: If someone were to get an autopsy for a death by carbon monoxide poisoning, and this person was a few weeks pregnant, would the pregnancy show up in the autopsy report? Thanks in advance for your help!

If someone was pregnant – and autopsied, then, yes – we would absolutely find the pregnancy at autopsy.


My cousin’s son was killed by a train. To date, she has not been able to identify the body. She won’t see him until the day before the funeral. She has many questions…one of them is why wouldn’t the coroner allow her to identify and confirm that is her son?

I can’t speak for other coroners.  I actually know of many locations that do not allow viewings at the coroner’s morgue and reserve that for the funeral home.  Some chalk it up to case load (which in some jurisdictions I could understand), some say that they aren’t preparing a body for a viewing prior to the work done at a funeral home, some just aren’t comfortable with it.  I do allow bodies to be viewed by loved ones prior to autopsy at our facility.  However, I know that we are the exception – not the rule.


Facts: My father was a farmer, worked 12-14 hours every day. The day before he died he unloaded more than half of a pickup of seed beans,50lb.bags, faster than a 27 year old neighbor and wife. He used a breath machine, nebulizer every morning after working 3 to 4 hours. My nephew found him dead, breathing machine in right hand, cell phone in left. There was a pink reddish fluid coming out of his lungs. EMS made the statement they had never seen this before!!! Dad had not sprayed pesticides for 2 weeks and pesticides for the orchard were kept the garage. My stepmother had Soaks come get the machine at 9:30 next morning, house keeper was surprised ask why stepmother said that machine cost a lot of money, I went and got the recipients it was 100 percent pay for by BlueCross and Medicare. She said she didn’t think an autopsy was necessary, we agreed. She was on phone shortly after that laughing and smiling, said it was her ex husband asking her out!!! Now, I find there was adultery while he was alive and she never funded the trust my father thought she had (and proudly told everyone). She had been placing so much pressure on him to change his will, enough to have him crying over it. I want an autopsy on my father. I kept investigating I find facts that lead me to think my dad was murdered over love and money. I have talked to Michigan State Police, they wouldn’t listen to all that I know and they dismissed the whole thing !! What should I do? I was told by a different EMS he had the symptoms of Pesticides Poisoning?!

First, I wouldn’t listen to the EMS giving a reliable cause of death.  Also, it sounds like maybe an asthma attack, possibly a pleural effusion (pink fluid).  However, I could guess all day – I don’t have enough of the case information to make a good guess as to cause of death.  However, if you believe that there are situations of possible homicide, possible financial exploitation, etc. – then, you simply follow the chain of command so-to-say.  You would start with the city where the death occurred, if there is no city – and it’s more rural –  you would contact the county sheriff, next would be state police (and you keep working up the ranks until you find answers or you find someone willing to work with you) and next would be FBI.


Why would a coroner ask for the will of the deceased? 

I don’t know why a coroner would ‘ask’ for the Will.  The only time I’ve ever used a Will is when it was the only information at a scene that helped to determine the next-of-kin for someone without a contact person.  I can’t say why a Coroner would ask for a Will.  That’s a bit outside the scope of what the Coroner does – unless, like I said – it’s used for identification/notification of next-of-kin.


My dads coroners report says he died from lung parenthyma caused by acid in stomach, what does this mean.. i looked it up, but dont understand it?

Essentially, it means he may have vomited or brought up some acid from the stomach and then inhaled it into his lungs which caused him to die from a type of aspiration pneumonia.


A family member of mine died recently in a car wreck. When he was autopsied they cut both of his arms open. Why would they do that?

There are many different answers which I can give you – but, I don’t know which one would apply to your particular situation.

1.The arms could be opened to document the extent of injuries (broken bones, etc.).

2.The arms could be opened looking for blood clots or other types of trauma.

3. If there was donation – they cut along the arms to remove long bones for donation.

These are the top reasons that come to mind.


Why would 6-Acetylmorphine be found in the vitreous blood but not in femoral blood?

It’s actually 6-Monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM for short) and it is found in the blood or the vitreous (which is a clear fluid in the eye – not blood).  The vitreous holds levels more stable than the blood – so, it may have not metabolized between the two at the time death occurred.


Do you sugarcoat the condition of bodies for family members and friends when an accident happens? I lost several very close and dear friends in the Oakland warehouse fire, and in all three cases, the coroner reported that the bodies were not burned. However nobody got to see the bodies, they were cremated. I’m struggling with not trusting the reports.

I don’t sugar coat anything.  I tell families exactly how things are – and I’ve never denied anyone the opportunity to see/view a loved one. However, the fact that you are friends and not family may exclude you from the circle of people who are given all of the details.  I can’t speak for the other coroner – but, if they say the bodies weren’t burned, I’d be inclined to believe they were not burned.  Direct cremation is a very popular disposition – especially if there is any type of trauma to the body.


We are trying to view my little brother’s body. He died late Friday night. The coroner’s office told us that nobody was working this weekend and not on Monday either because it was a holiday. Now, it’s Tuesday and they are telling us that the only way we can view the body is at a funeral home. Do they legally have the right to deny us a viewing until such a time as we are able to find a funeral home that we can afford to do a funeral through?

The answer is, yes, the coroner’s office can deny you an opportunity for a viewing – that is what the funeral home is for.  You can ask that the funeral home prepare the body on a table, draped with a sheet and presentable for a private viewing – without incurring the cost of embalming and a full funeral service – however, this is at the availability and discretion of the funeral home you are working with.


Can you tell by doing an autopsy if someone has been strangled? Hit over the head?

Yes and yes.


I have a family member who died a few years ago. There was an autopsy performed and the cause of death was alcohol, hydrocodone and dihydrocodiene. Nothing else was in his system. Wouldn’t there be other substances that accompany these drugs?

Not necessarily – these are actually a common combination of drugs seen in overdose situations.


Is an 80 minute difference in time of death considered close when two time measurements (approximately 40 minutes apart) give 6 hours ago and 8 hours ago?

I’m not sure I exactly understand your question – but, no, a 2 hour discrepancy in time estimation is actually quite small.  We sometimes give 12 hour windows.


If a person were underwater for two months in a river, would they still show a bruise on their knee?



Thanks for reading! We have already received enough questions for a Part 4. Once they are sorted and replied to, we will get it uploaded. Thanks for reading! If you have a question of your own, send it our way.


Also, the updated version of our book is up! We added new questions and changed the layout. It’s cleaner, prettier, and perfect for quick reading. Go ahead and check it out, HERE.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *