Remains Found in Del. ME's Office - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Remains Found in Del. ME's Office

Posted: Updated: Sep 23, 2014 10:10 AM
(Photo: DHSS) (Photo: DHSS)

DOVER, Del. (WBOC)- A year full of problems and scandals continues at what used to be called the Delaware Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The state Division of Forensic Science has dealt with problems ranging from an evidence tampering scandal to professional misconduct by the since-fired chief medical examiner during the past year.

Officials confirmed Monday a bag of human remains had been found in a decomposition refrigerator. And it was not supposed to be there.

According to Sec. Lewis Shilliro, head of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, which also oversees the DFS, the remains were from a 2006 case. They belong to a man and were found in Kent County.

Shilliro said there were actually two bags of remains. After there was a positive ID in 2007, one bag was apparently returned to the man's family. The other was not.

Shilliro said he would not attempt to explain the time period between 2007 and now, but this latest revelation plays into the overall problems at the medical examiner's office.

"Generally, what we would like to see is much more rigorous procedures in place to avoid those kinds of thing," he said. "The bottom line is that shouldn't have happened for that period of time."

Shilliro said that above all, this is about accountability. And making this scandal-ridden office more accountable was a theme of Monday's meeting - the first meeting - of the state's new Commission of Forensic Science. The panel is charged with looking at the many issues in the ME's office and charting a path forward for Delaware.

RL Hughes, who is the acting director of the Division of Forensic Science, said some of the most important changes that are under way for the division are better security features in the offices and more attention to chain of custody.

"Card readers and cameras documenting our actions - where we are, when we touch evidence as it moves forward through the process, to ensure we know where it is at all times," he said. "That way there are no gaps."

Hughes said the changes would have had an impact if they'd been in place while all the alleged problems were happening.

"Having these redundant systems in place goes a long way toward accountability," he said. "You can no longer just have one person say this is where something is in the chain of custody."

Hughes said another major problem was a lack of leadership in the ME's office. The state is currently looking for a director of DFS.

The office's drug lab is scheduled to reopen in October. The investigation into the thefts there continues.

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