Medical examiners’ failure to examine bodies raises questions about rulings on cause of death

May 18, 2014 

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Gretchen Crowder, mother of Matthew Crowder, visits her son’s gravesite Feb. 17. She is a litigant in a lawsuit against the state. When her 22-year-old son died, the medical examiner failed to investigate the death scene, order an autopsy or even look at the body.

DIEDRA LAIRD — dlaird@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

Medical examiners in North Carolina often fail to follow crucial investigative steps, raising questions about thousands of death rulings, a Charlotte Observer investigation has found.

The living face the consequences of those failures. Widows can be cheated out of insurance money. Families may never learn why their loved ones died. Killers can go free.

“Fatally Flawed” is a five-part series on the Observer’s investigation, which began in 2012. In today’s second installment, Observer reporters describe the problems that arise when medical examiners make rulings on cause of death without ever viewing the bodies — including homicides that are ruled as suicides.

Read today’s story and see videos, profiles, data and other extras, plus the first story in the series.

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