First Alert Investigation: Cape County Coroner responds to concerns about his behavior in office
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Coroner Wavis Jordan is considered Cape Girardeau County’s highest elected official.
Jordan is now answering questions raised publicly about how he handles the duties of that office.
In the two and a half years since Wavis Jordan’s election to that post, the county commission has received several complaints regarding his behavior.
Jordan recently sat down with me exclusively with to address those concerns and more.
“I think I felt like I have done a great job since I’ve been here two and a half years”, Jordan tells me. “You can’t make, in some situations, you probably can’t always make people happy. But you know, I have done my best as Cape Girardeau County Coroner.”
Wavis Jordan says--he’s spent his time as coroner closely following state statutes governing the office. But he’s also still learning.
“And then if I’m not for sure about things, I don’t mind telling the families hey, let me check into this. Let me pull medical records. Because we do that a lot.”
After 20 years in the funeral industry, Jordan now finds himself in charge of death investigations in a county of more than 82,000 people.
But during his time in office, Jordan says he did not know the Cape County Commission received several complaints about his behavior.
He questions why those concerned did not reach out to him directly.
“Because at that time, to me, they’re emotional and then once everything is kind of over with, then they can, you know. Why didn’t they come to me, and we could have sat down and talked. That’s how I feel.”
During a wide-ranging interview, Jordan addressed those concerns--beginning with the handling of a 90-year-old woman’s remains that stayed in his custody for nearly two months before being cremated.
He tells me--when his office requested Crain funeral home to handle Annie Pruitt’s case as an indigent cremation--they did their due diligence to find any surviving family first.
“Yes. Again, we were told there was no next of kin by the daughter. So, we can go and try to find other next of kin, but again, we did our research. Mr. Poole again even talked to the hospital at the time to see if there was any next of kin. And again, the hospital told him no.”
Jordan admits it upset him when a Crain employee brought the Pruitt case to the County Commission’s attention.
“I was very upset because I felt like.... I believe in going by what the statute says. I felt like I was a little upset because I felt like they didn’t ask any questions. Which is fine. We did our part with what the statute says.”
Jordan says he ultimately learned Crain did handle Pruitt’s cremation with her estate covering the cost.
“That’s when we found out, I guess, when this family decided to step up. And we did not know that. We were not made aware of that. So, there was no communication.”
Next, I asked Jordan about Terra Aufdenberg’s complaint concerning his behavior on June 27 after Dan and Robin Rose lost their 24-year-old daughter, Scarlett.
“Ok. Well, I felt like I wasn’t rude in this situation to them. At all. Because they were very emotional at the time. I was not rude to them at all. Secondly, when they say about a body bag. I did not use a body bag. The funeral home came and picked them up.”
Did you tell the parents; they’re going to put your daughter in a bag and zip it up? I asked.
“No. I never told them that. No.”
Jordan also defends his comments to the family regarding whether they planned to have their daughter cremated or embalmed.
“If they were going to have her cremated, their daughter cremated. That’s kind of good for the coroner to know.”
Right. But again, their point is the passing of their child was so fresh, they felt it inappropriate that you would bring that up to them, I shared.
“If that’s what they feel, I’m sorry, you know. But again. I didn’t feel like it was inappropriate at the time.”
As for Dan Rose’s concern that Jordan did not understand cerebral palsy is a condition and not a disease, Jordan told me this.
“I did take time out to listen to him. If he felt that way, I’m sorry. But I did take time out to listen to him and what he had to say about his daughter’s disease. And then like I said, I did check out.”
Did you ever talk to Scarlett’s doctors? I asked. “Yes. I did call Scarlett’s doctors.”
Now, her dad says that you did not.
“Well, that’s what her dad says. But I did call.”
I then asked Jordan about his interaction with Joni Hand on September 8th when he notified her of the sudden death of her husband, Kevin.
Jordan says, when he called Hand on the way to her house, he did introduce himself.
“Yes, I told her I was Wavis the coroner. I don’t give my full name. I always introduce myself as Wavis. I’ll say I’m Wavis. And I’m the coroner. And I would like to talk to you. And that’s what I told her.”
This is how he described his actions once he arrived.
“And I said you know, in her yard, that I wanted to inform her about her husband passing away. And she collapsed. So, I did reach over to her, to tell her to take her time. You know, if she needed to take a few minutes. I’ll give her a little breather. And that’s what I did.”
Jordan describes carrying a notebook with him, which contains the names of Cape County’s three funeral homes. But he says he did not provide any details about them to Hand.
“Now, as far as telling her about cheapest funeral homes, we’re not allowed to...”
You didn’t say to her--this funeral home is the best. This is the cheapest? I asked.
“No. No. What we have to do, and that’s what I did with her, was give her a list of funeral homes. And she picked the funeral home.”
Overall, do you feel you’re qualified to be coroner? I asked Jordan toward the end of our interview.
“I feel like I am. And I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been coroner.”
Have you been to a lot of medical training?
“I go through training every year. It’s mandatory that we go through training.”
Should a coroner have more medical knowledge than you do?
“Not for the coroner, no. I don’t think so. But you still have to know some medical stuff. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot of medical stuff.”
And Wavis Jordan says he’d like to continue serving Cape Girardeau County as coroner. He plans to run for a second term next year.
“And I would like to continue on doing the job. And I will continue on following statutes and all that. And I would like for the Cape County to allow me to continue on being their coroner. And this is, like I said, we learn all the time. Every situation is different. You know, every situation is not the same.”
I also asked Coroner Jordan directly about the misdemeanor stealing accusation against him being reviewed by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
“Talk to my attorney about that, you know? But I know I didn’t do it, so.”
You feel comfortable letting the folks of Cape County know you did not steal money from that man’s home? I asked.
“No. No. Because I wouldn’t want nobody doing that to me. And I wouldn’t do that to anybody else.”
You can find our full report detailing those families’ concerns on our website right now at kfvs12.com.
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