First Alert Investigation: Families voice concern over future of Cape County Coroner’s Office

Families voice concern over future of Cape County Coroner's Office
Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 7:08 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2023 at 7:10 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - Families concerned about the future of the Cape Girardeau County Coroner’s Office spoke out during a public meeting, designed to weigh the pros and cons of the going from an elected official to a hired medical doctor.

When I began my investigation into current Coroner Wavis Jordan, I realized--at some point--the story and this debate over a possible change to a medical examiner in Cape County would come together.

That happened this morning, when several families chose to attend this morning’s public meeting.

The first family member to address the commission--Dan Rose--began by speaking not only to the commission, but to others in the room who’ve recently lost loved ones.

“How things are handled in that moment matters. Experience matters. Expertise matters.”

Dan Rose laid out his case for a medical examiner by expressing what he sees as the expense of a county this size not having one. The expense of travel, out-of-county autopsies.

“These all are costs. Poor decisions. Indecision. It’s all costs. So, I do understand that this position of a medical examiner will cost the county more. But there are benefits to it that have not really been stated except for a few. And there are costs involved that people have experienced because of how things were handled with their deceased loved one. You can’t put a figure on that. Those are things that don’t go away.”

Also at this public hearing, Christy Young-Clover and Jenny Blankenship. They’ve never been in the same room as Coroner Wavis Jordan--only speaking to him by phone eleven months after learning about the death of Young-Clover’s 29-year-old son.

Blankenship spoke to the commission--saying Cape County is big enough to support this level of medical service.

“We have resources that we need to utilize and utilize them more appropriately. I believe a medical examiner would be the more appropriate way to utilize what we do have,” Blankenship said. “The time factor. The money factor. Nothing can put a price on knowing actual answers to what happened. To how is my loved one being handled. What happened is a huge question. And if you don’t know, that’s something that weighs heavy on your heart for the rest of your life.”

Dana Mueller came to the meeting with her niece, after telling us her family feels they’ll never know how her sister, Susan died.

We watched as the 20 year old approached the podium and speak on behalf of her mother.

“I did not think about speaking today. But I will say, you know, when you’re in schools they do not teach you about death. They do not teach you about coroners. When I found that the coroner was not a medical professional, when my mom passed away, I was livid. People talk about cost. Talk about money. But can you really put a price on the peace we get from knowing that the steps were taken correctly in our family’s passing? When my mom passed away, it was two days after my 18th birthday. Nothing. Like, he was nice. He was very lovely. I can say all that. I actually knew Wavis Jordan from one of my family friends. I didn’t even know he was the coroner. I knew him as nice Wavis Jordan. Didn’t have a problem with him until my mom’s death. The steps were not taken. I got told, oops sorry. I didn’t take the right steps. With a medical examiner, I know these steps are going to be taken correctly. I don’t care about the price. I see a lot of people in here. If our elected coroner was doing his correct job, I don’t think we’d be having this meeting today.”

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy began to wrap up the meeting when Sherri Stairs decided she wanted to speak. Stairs used to work with Dana Mueller, and came to the meeting to talk about the sudden death of her husband Glen in November 2021. Stairs says she asked Wavis Jordan for an autopsy. He told her he’d do toxicology. She told commissioners neither happened.

“And I don’t have an answer. And I will never have an answer about what happened to him at age 56. We had been married 24 years. I planned on having 50 years. But I don’t have it. And I don’t have answers. And I will never have them. Thanks to him not bothering to follow up. And do what was asked.”

“Please. Look at doing an actual medical examiner. Or somebody who’s got some medical experience.”

Coroner Jordan told me he is against the county changing to a medical examiner and--while he attended this morning’s hearing, he did not address the commission or speak publicly about his office.

We also tried speaking with him once the meeting ended.

“Mr. Jordan, any comment on the medical examiner’s office?”

“No comment,” replied Jordan.

As for what’s next, the commission has until December 31 to announce if it will move to a medical examiner or keep the current coroner model.

In the meantime, commissioner voted to start accepting proposals from any medical professionals interested in bringing a medical examiner’s office to Cape County.