Muscogee Co. morgue & autopsy results back to normal following overcrowding

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 1:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - This is an update on a story we first brought you back in July: The delay in autopsy results seems to be working itself out as crime in the Fountain City remains steady.

Just last month we reported the Muscogee County Morgue, which can hold 8 bodies, was becoming overcrowded. This was due to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab being overcrowded as well. But now, things are looking up when it comes to autopsy results.

Whether a homicide, suspicious death or death of a child, bodies found in Georgia under certain circumstances must be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in Decatur for an official autopsy.

Just weeks ago, problems were arising resulting in overcrowding, delays in autopsy results and hardships on grieving families.

“They had a real surge 2 or three months ago which caused a real backlog,” Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said. “Some were out with Coronavirus... They also changed the criteria.”

... asking coroners to be selective about what bodies are sent... For example, the age of bodies mandatory to be sent has changed from 50 years old to 40 and certain suicides do not have to be sent up. Homicides and children 17 and younger are mandatory.

“We call one in and that same day they say they have the table available. We’re glad. Our morgue was getting full and we were really having to shuffle around bodies to make it work. Now we have a rotating door: in and out.”

News Leader 9′s Ashlee Williams reached out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and they cited lack of workers, increased opioid overdoses and a growing state as reasons as to why autopsies had previously been taking longer to process.

Just over one week ago, a man was shot in Columbus and sent off to the GBI: “Jerry Walton... we were able to transfer him up there the very next day,” Bryan told us. “They completed the autopsy Saturday, which was a week, and he was released today to the funeral home. A month ago it would have been a month before he was released or even taken up there for the autopsy.”

The GBI said they have an in-house training program with two medical examiner trainees... and they are actively recruiting to fill vacancies.