Cape County Commission hears pros, cons of med. examiner’s office

Commissioners listened to public input on whether the coroner’s office should be replaced with a medical examiner’s office.
Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 5:21 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2023 at 6:26 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - A roomful of people faced the Cape County Commission this morning. Some came to speak on behalf of Coroner Wavis Jordan. Others--to criticize his conduct.

Commissioners had hoped this public meeting would stay focused on the pros and cons of moving to a medical examiner’s office--something Cape County has had the ability to do since 1997.

And there was some talk about the cost of a medical examiner, and the benefits of having a medical professional involved in death investigations.

“We have a public meeting scheduled to discuss the benefits of and explore moving to a medical examiner.”

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy asked first to hear from those in support of keeping the coroner’s office in place. The first speakers directed their comments to Coroner Wavis Jordan, who attended the public meeting and has said publicly he thinks switching to an medical examiner is a bad idea.

“I’ve known Mr. Jordan since he worked for R-2 district school,” says Paul Macke. “And as far as I know, he’s a reliable person. Very reliable.”

“I’ve known Mr. Jordan for several years. And I think he’s been more than fair with everybody.”

Gayle Crites of Jackson also mentioned his concern about the cost of switching to a medical examiner.

“Medical examiner’s gonna cost a lot more money. And I figure if a doctor gets that, he’s gonna have to have an assistant. And then they’re going to have to have a secretary. And I don’t think we need that.”

Don Howard of Jackson came to the meeting to tell commissioners about his father’s death back in 2018, and how he never got real answers about what happened.

“I wish I knew what happened to dad. But, until we switch the system around, which you all are trying to do, I hope this doesn’t happen to another family.”

The Commission also heard from the head of the Major Case Squad about how the current system--which involves sending bodies to Farmington for autopsy--can impact their work.

“Which a lot of times can slow our investigation down somewhat,” Lt. Don Perry says. “Because that information on how they died and the nature of that may lead us to other evidence we’re looking for out on scene.”

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair worked alongside a medical examiner during his time as an investigator in Texas.

“And that’s invaluable to us as detectives to have that trained professional on the scene with us as we begin those investigations. Because as Lt. Perry referenced earlier, getting information back from the medical examiner may lead us to look for other clues on scene that we may not have known to do at the time.”

The meeting also touched on the coroner’s office past and present.

Former Coroner John Clifton’s wife, Debbie addressed the commission.

“And what John took 16 years to build, a decent coroner’s office in this county, has been totally destroyed by this administration.”

Licensed Funeral Home Director Craig Williams served as Deputy Coroner under Wavis Jordan--until he says Jordan fired him without cause back in February. He laid out the pros and cons of keeping a coroner and switching to a medical examiner, then ended with this.

“My conclusion is this. Cape Girardeau County needs someone who can correctly oversee our death investigations. Someone who’s going to do their due diligence in finding the story of what happened to someone, making sure they are accountable to the families who depend on them in their greatest time of need.”

The meeting ended with the Commissioners voting to move forward with requests for proposals--basically opening the door for medical examiners or medical professionals to present the county with pricing options for their services.

Presiding Commissioner Tracy says--they’ll evaluate those options in four to six weeks.

Current Coroner Wavis Jordan did not speak during the hearing. He also chose not to comment to us once the meeting wrapped up. We did hear from one Jackson resident who told the commission his major concern actually involved our investigation into Coroner Jordan’s conduct.