Tennessee has troubled history with medical examiners
State has more than its share of issues, official says
By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
NASHVILLE — The court battle to get records of beleaguered former Knox County medical examiner Sandra Elkins provides another glimpse into Tennessee’s storied history with some of its top death investigators.
Those who work with them say they can’t explain why Tennessee has had so many problems with its medical examiners.
Elkins was hospitalized in 2008 after police said she threatened to kill a Knoxville police officer during a confrontation at her home. Her predecessor, Randall Pedigo, pleaded guilty to drugging and molesting young males.
Former state medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy was arrested in Mississippi last year on felony marijuana possession. Before that, the state revoked the medical license of former Metro medical examiner Charles Harlan, concluding he botched several autopsies and was responsible for multiple counts of misconduct.
There have been more problems with other medical examiners across the state.
They’ve been accused of storing body parts at home, stealing marijuana found with corpses, and testifying in a drugged-up stupor. One was shot by police while being investigated on child molestation charges. Another, O.C. Smith of Shelby County, was accused of faking his own attack by strapping a homemade bomb to his neck.
“Historically, if you’re not in trouble after five years of being a medical examiner in Tennessee, you’re an outlier,” said Nashville attorney Dan Warlick.
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