I-TEAM: Family responds to Jacksonville morgue overflow

Medical examiner facing 'dire lack of space,' according to email

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the I-TEAM continues to investigate overflow problems at the Jacksonville morgue, a man's family said they're upset with the city for not responding to the capacity issues at the medical examiner's office sooner. 

Jamie Anderson’s sister-in-law spoke with the I-TEAM, which has been hearing from viewers upset with the city's response to the medical examiner's office. She said she wants to know from the city why it would allow the medical examiner's office to run out of space.

Anderson's body was found in a ditch the day after Thanksgiving. Lisa Anderson said her pain has grown from devastation to anger after her brother-in-law's body was taken to the medical examiner’s office.

"First I was mad at the medical examiner's office, but then I started doing some reading and it's not their fault," Lisa Anderson said. "They are doing everything they can to try to get people to pay attention to this and help them with the city, and they are just not."

In a report on Nov. 30, the I-TEAM detailed an internal email from Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Valerie Rao to all 19 City Council members, in which she stated there was a “dire lack of space” and one body had to be put on the floor. 

"I just don't know how it could go so out of control like that," said Lisa Anderson, whose brother-in-law's death is one of the hundreds of usual, sudden or unexpected deaths that the medical examiner's office investigates.

After the I-TEAM obtained the email, the city's finance committee agreed to help the medical examiner's office get a cooler on the property to hold more bodies.

But Lisa Anderson said for anyone who has a loved going to the medical examiner's office, that's not enough.

"Give the people the resources they need to do their job because, without those resources, none of us are ever going to get the truth about what happened, and it's not fair," she said.

More than a week after the I-TEAM requested comment about the city morgue being over capacity, Mayor Lenny Curry released a statement Thursday, saying the medical examiner could have asked for a new building during the budget planning process, but only asked for a new employee and equipment. 

"Each year, the city of Jacksonville develops its budget based on the priorities and needs requested by each department," Curry said, in part. "The Medical Examiner’s Office shared their critical capacity issues with the administration after an email was sent to all city council members."

But the medical examiner's office is getting some help, as City Councilman Garrett Dennis has requested $150,000.

The administration could introduce legislation to purchase a larger cooler to store more bodies, but no date or deadline has been set.

Dennis, the chair of the finance committee, said he's "focused on getting immediate relief to the medical examiner's office. After that, it is my intention to pursue funding for a long-term solution."

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