May 19, 2014

In death investigations in North Carolina, location matters

How North Carolina investigates suspicious deaths depends largely on the county in which the person dies, a pattern that experts say cheats families and distorts key statistics used to protect the public’s health. Johnston County is one example.

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 third installment, Observer reporters detail how the county where someone dies can determine the course of the investigation, and how that can damage families and impair public health.

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

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