Dr. Mary E. Case, St. Louis County’s chief medical examiner, told me today her agency’s autopsy on Tom Schweich, the second-term Missouri state auditor who had recently launched his Republican campaign for governor, “is complete.” Based on a separate communication I had with a member of her staff, I suspect the autopsy findings will be released tomorrow. UPDATE RECEIVED TODAY at 4:28 p.m. Central: Clayton (Mo.) Police Chief Kevin Murphy sent me a message in which he said, “Currently, the investigation is not closed.”
The news from Dr. Case arrived in the form of answers to seven questions — and they arrived exactly two minutes after I had published today’s first update to my Friday piece related to the autopsy findings on Schweich. My questions (Q1 through Q7) appear below, followed by Dr. Case’s answers (A1 through A7) and, as necessary, my comments in italics after four of the answers:
Q1. How long does your average autopsy take when it involves what law enforcement officials initially suspect is a self-inflicted gunshot wound?
A1. The average autopsy with toxicology takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete.
Q2. On average, how many autopsies do you perform annually on individuals in cases law enforcement officials initially suspected involved self-inflicted gunshot wounds?
A2. We probably do about 50 or more GSW (i.e., gunshot wound) suicides/year.
Q3. Have you completed the autopsy on Mr. Schweich’s body?
A3. The autopsy is complete.
Q4. Please describe the tests you performed on Mr. Schweich’s body.
A4. We did complete toxicology testing. Interestingly, Dr. Case does not mention any other types of testing, such as gunshot residue testing. That’s probably a police matter anyway. Any cops out there want to answer that question for me? If so, leave a reply in the comments section below.
Q5. Why is it taking so long for the findings to be released?
A5. We do not announce the findings of autopsies. If you wish to have a copy, you may request it.
In response to Dr. Case’s reply to Q5, I sent the following message: “Thank you for your reply. Please consider this a request. Can you email it to me?” Twenty-six minutes later, I received a response from Kathy Sparks, an office services specialist in the ME’s office. Sparks wrote: “Per Suzanne McCune- Forensic Administrator; this case is currently on hold, you may contact Suzanne on Tuesday 04/07/2015 at 314-615-0801. Thanks for your patience.” Does that mean there is going to be a public announcement of some sort? Methinks there might be, but Dr. Case does not. In a separate email exchange, I asked her if she knew of any such announcement forthcoming, and she replied, “I do not know anything about such an announcement.”
Q6. Have you set a date on which you plan to release the findings? If not, why not?
A6. See A5 — and, especially, my comment that follows it!
Q7. Were you the only medical examiner to perform an autopsy on Mr. Schweich’s body?
A7. I did not personally do the autopsy. This response prompts at least one additional question: “Was the autopsy conducted by someone within your office or by someone outside of your office?” I forwarded that question to Dr. Case. A few minutes later, she replied, writing, “The autopsy was done by Dr Kamal Sabharwal who is an assistant medical examiner in this office and he was on call that day for cases.”
One person who has not responded to the single question I asked of him two times today — at 10:42 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. — was Clayton Police Chief Kevin R. Murphy. I suspect he knew the answer when I asked him Friday whether the investigation into Schweich’s death is ongoing or has been closed. Why? Because I suspect he knew the autopsy had been completed by then. Rather than come out and say it, however, he decided to wiggle around the answer in his reply to me, the full length of which appears below and in my Friday piece:
An autopsy was conducted on the morning of the 27th, at 0730. I didn’t say the results would be available then. I believe we are waiting on the completed, written, autopsy report. In any event, only the Medical Examiner’s Office can release an autopsy report. We are not authorized to make a secondary release of the information.
Having spent years in politics and public relations, I recognize “I believe” and “In any event” as defensible words — the kind politicians and PR folks use when they know they might need to wiggle out of a statement at some future date.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the next update!
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