The coroner in York County, Pa., is defending her handling of a mysterious case in which the body of an Army veteran was returned to his family, but without his brain, heart and throat.
Coroner Pam Gay issued a statement saying that the missing organs of Everett Palmer Jr., are being held by Forensic Pathology Associates in Lehigh County, Penn., which is in line with guidelines from the National Association of Medical Examiners for deaths in custody that warrant further investigation, the York Daily Record report.
Palmer, 41, a father of two from Seaford, Del., died April 9, 2018 at the York County Prison after becoming agitated and banging his head on a cell door, authorities have said. Two days before, Palmer called his brother to say he was traveling to Pennsylvania to take care of an outstanding DUI warrant, CNN reports. That was the last his family would hear from him. The coroner gave the cause of death as “complications following an excited state associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint,” the Daily Record reports.
Sickle cell disorder also may have been a contributing factor, according to the coroner’s initial ruling.
But the family says they have many questions about how Palmer died.
“The entire case smacks of a cover up,” civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, who is working with Palmer’s family, told CNN.
But now, the coroner tells the Daily Record that her office and Forensic Pathology Associates have been in regular contact with Palmer’s family either personally or through their legal counsel. Gay said the family’s private pathologist visualized and examined the organs.
“There were some things that we had to clarify and we thought had already been clarified,” she told the Daily Record.
The statement echoes Gay’s insistence that her office handled everything appropriately following Palmer’s death.
“From the beginning of this investigation, appropriate chain of custody was maintained of the remains of Everett Palmer Jr.,” the statement read. “At no time were the remains ‘missing.’ At no time did we direct the family to the funeral home for ‘missing’ organs.”
Gay further told the Daily Record, “We’re doing our best, and I hope someday everyone will have a better understanding.”
The manner of death has not yet been determined.
The Pennsylvania State Police are investigating.