County to fund autopsy transports

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Since the state department cut funding for forensic science transports this year, county officials have had to come up with ways to transport about six different people themselves.

But, those days are now over.

With agreement from all of the Pike County Commissioners, the county government will now step in to help fund the transports, a task local law enforcement have been unclear of how to handle for the last few months.

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County Administrator Harry Sanders said the decision came last week to use services of Tri-County Transportation for a $60 fee plus mileage.

The cost will come from the county’s general fund budget, but Sanders said he is unsure how big of a dent it will make.

“Not having any experience with this, to be honest with you I have no idea,” Sanders said. “This is new ground, and hopefully, it’s not something we’ll have to plow in budget time.”

Pike County Coroner Jerry Williams said typically the county makes about 40 transports in a year, which would total somewhere around $2,400 if that’s the case this year.

Up until this point, Sanders said local funeral homes have stepped into help transport bodies at no cost to the county.

“They didn’t want any public credit for it, but local funeral homes Dillard and Henry Moore did that for us and never billed the county for that service,” Sanders said.

The service is something Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan said he is extremely grateful funeral homes stepped in to do.

“They have really stepped up and helped us out, and I would like to say a big thank you to them publicly,” Sullivan said.

While the funeral homes offered their services to the county, without having a specific service to call, Sullivan said the process risked being delayed.

“What this will do for the coroner is if something happened at one or two in the morning, he would have to wait for us the next day to get approval,” Sullivan said. “This will be a benefit for the county to have that service.”

The last transport the county had to do was with the homicide of Doris Adams, of Troy. Williams said that took place before the commission had the new service agreement.

Sullivan said while funding is tight in the county now, this service is one worth paying the price for.

“I’m concerned, but the price we’re getting is very, very reasonable,” Sullivan said.

The reasons Williams said bodies are transported to forensic science are to determine a cause of death, and those autopsies can only be ordered by the district attorney, governor, attorney general or the head of the forensic science department.

The transport service is something Williams said is vital to families of Pike County.

“We don’t want people to wonder why,” Williams said. “You only have one opportunity to do it right, and a lot of time an autopsy is the only way.”