Boot Camp Autopsy Doctor Questioned Before for Mistake-Filled Reports

Was he drinking while performing the autopsy?

Date: Monday, February 20, 2006
By: Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The medical examiner who ruled last week that a teenager died of natural causes after he was struck by Panama City boot camp guards earlier signed mistake-filled autopsy reports on a man and his adult daughter killed in a September 2004 tornado, their widow and mother said Monday.

Donna Faye Reed’s autopsy report, which was signed by Dr. Charles F. Siebert Jr. , said “the prostate gland and testes are unremarkable”—organs that are part of the male genitalia. The autopsy of her father, James Terry, failed to mention major wounds on his body that were obvious, his widow says.

“I was extremely upset about my daughter having testicles—any mother or daddy would be,” Frances Terry said. “And my husband not having any visible scars really upset me, too.”

She said she has been complaining about Siebert to officials for a year, with little success.

Siebert has drawn national criticism since he ruled Thursday that 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson died last month from hemorrhaging caused by sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood condition that one in 12 African Americans has. Security camera videotape taken at the Bay County juvenile boot camp Jan. 5 and released Friday shows that Anderson was struck and kneed several times by guards during a half hour encounter. The guards said he was not cooperating during an exercise drill shortly after he checked in.

Siebert did not return calls Monday left at his home and his office, which was closed for Presidents Day.

James Terry, 55, and Reed, 34, died Sept. 15, 2004, as a result of a tornado spawned by Hurricane Ivan that ripped through the Blountstown area in Calhoun County, just northeast of Panama City in the Florida Panhandle.

Frances Terry, who spent more than three weeks hospitalized for treatment of the injuries she received in the tornado, missed the funeral of her husband and daughter while on a ventilator.

Her husband’s autopsy report noted no major wounds on his body even though there were several, including some on his belly and back and a 12-inch wound along his shoulder blade that Terry said required 80 stitches to close.

“It bothered me no end,” she said.

She said there were other problems with her daughter’s autopsy besides giving her male organs, including comments on an appendix and female reproductive organs that she says were both removed in earlier surgeries. Reed’s age was also wrong.

Although Siebert’s signature was on both autopsy reports, it was unclear if he had actually performed the procedures but no other doctors are named.

Gina Jones, Anderson’s mother, was blunt in her criticism of Siebert after learning of Terry’s allegations.

“That doctor needs to go back to school,” Jones said.

Siebert’s autopsy report on her son created a stir in the medical community where some experts said there are rare cases of sudden death after exertion among people with sickle cell trait, but that it would’ve been unlikely that it alone would’ve caused Anderson’s death.

Terry saw a television report Saturday that led her to Jones’ attorney, Ben Crump, in Tallahassee. He is suing the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the boot camp, and the Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversees the programs statewide.

“When I heard that this child died in Bay County, the first thing that crossed my mind was ‘I wonder who did his autopsy?’” she said.

Frustrated that she had been unable to get any Panama City attorneys or State Attorney Steve Meadows to listen to her, Terry called Crump. Meadows did not immediately return a message left at his home Monday.

At one point, Terry said, she did reach Lesa Forehand, director of investigation for the 14th District Medical Examiner, to complain about the autopsy reports on her daughter and husband.

“She was very apologetic,” Terry said. “She said she wasn’t trying to make any excuses, but they were out of power in Bay County for a few days.

“I told her they must’ve performed the autopsies in the dark,” Terry said.

Lawmakers and Anderson’s family are calling for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the guards who are seen on videotape kneeing and striking Anderson.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations in his death.

Gov. Jeb Bush said he did not support calls to shut down the state’s juvenile boot camps, calling Anderson’s death “one tragic incident.”

“The coroner has suggested that the death was caused by this child’s unique illness ... that ... the force itself did not cause the death,” he said.

Still, Bush said he is awaiting a series of recommendations from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice about improving the training and the quality of the camps.

Some lawmakers have called on Bush to appoint an independent prosecutor. A spokesman for Bush said earlier Friday that the governor thought it was too early to consider appointing an independent prosecutor in the case.

“The investigation by law enforcement hasn’t been completed yet,” he said.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said they provided their investigative reports to the state attorney’s office and to the U.S. Attorney and that their investigation would remain active until decisions are made about criminal charges.

Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami Beach, said the conclusion that Anderson died of natural causes “doesn’t add up.” “It doesn’t make sense and goes against all logic of watching what happened to this young man,” he said.

Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, called for any guard who touched Anderson to be arrested. “At the very least it’s aggravated battery, at the top of the ladder it’s murder,” Siplin said.

Anderson, who entered the camp Jan. 5 because of a probation violation, complained of breathing difficulties and collapsed while doing push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises. He died after midnight the next day at a Pensacola hospital.

Posted by loni on 02/21 at 09:23 AM in News

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