Trouble at the ME's Office

The Travis Co. Medical Examiner's Office has had its share of high-profile troubles over the years, prompting the Commissioners Court in October to order an outside audit of the office's operations. Here are just a few of the more recent low-lights:

In December 2003, the office released the wrong body for cremation. Instead of sending 38-year-old Paul Williams, they released 39-year-old Rayford Floyd, whose family had wanted a burial. Travis Co. Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo told the Statesman Floyd's body had been incorrectly labeled. "We are very sorry this happened," he said. "I had thought we were foolproof."

In June 2004, the office misidentified the charred remains of an 81-year-old woman as those of a 23-year-old man. In his autopsy report, former Deputy Medical Examiner Vladimir Parungao identified the remains as those of Clayton Wayne Daniels, noting that he'd found a "small segment of penis" and a small amount of urine in the bladder that he matched to Daniels. Unfortunately, the corpse was that of an already dead – and embalmed, buried, and then exhumed – woman, leaving Burnet Co. officials (for whom the ME's office had conducted the examination) wondering if the ME's office actually examined the body. "They've got some serious explaining to do," Burnet Co. Attorney Eddie Arredondo told the Houston Chronicle.

In June 2005, the office mistakenly reported that 18-year-old Daniel Rocha, who was shot and killed by police on June 9, was drug-free at the time he was killed. After APD questioned the results, the ME's office performed a second, more discriminating toxicology, which revealed there was a small amount of marijuana in Rocha's bloodstream when he was killed.

In August 2005, the office reported that Randy "Biscuit" Turner died from cirrhosis caused by alcohol abuse. After learning that Turner didn't drink alcohol, the office reversed their finding to reflect that the cirrhosis was caused by hepatitis C. The alcohol found in Turner's system, the office subsequently reported, was the result of body decomposition.

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