Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Developments: The Cocke County Coroner Terry Jarnigan

A quick note on our limited posting as of late. We’ve been unable to provide much in the way of updates because we’ve continued to encounter obstacles with local authorities. As a result, an attorney has been retained to represent our family and we will attempt to provide more frequent updates as we are able.  

The Cocke County authorities who investigated (we use that term very lightly) our son’s death have serious credibility issues. The detective who arrived on the scene was recently busted by the FBI for narcotics (apparently his activities were discovered by the sheriff around the timeframe of Alex’s death). Even worse, the coroner (Terry Jarnigan) who handled much of the investigation and blundered procedures after the fact apparently, according to this file, had past indictments of attempted murder and arson:

Under a two-count indictment, Terry Lee Lackey, a/k/a Terry Lee Jarnigan, and Diane Lackey, a/k/a Diane Jarnigan, husband and wife, were charged with willful injury of another, Edna Stamey, by explosives (TCA 39-4912) and with malicious injury to personal property, a Chevrolet automobile, by explosives (TCA 39-1402). …On their joint trial in Cocke County October 19-21, 1977, Terry Lee Jarnigan was convicted of willful and malicious injury of another by means of an explosive and of willful and malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive, and was sentenced to consecutive terms of not less than 15 1/2 years nor more than 21 years…This case arose out of the dynamiting of the car of Mrs. Edna Stamey in Newport on April 14, 1977, as the result of which Mrs. Stamey lost both of her feet and sustained other personal injuries……. Some knew that Terry Jarnigan had previously been convicted of arson.

Now that we read this recent article, we hope that it will open some additional doors for us: Judge approves injunction against county coroner Jarnigan

From the injunction, which is posted within the linked article, “…the Respondent inserts himself into crime scenes without invitation and his resultant contamination of said crime scenes without regard for any on-going investigation and, more disturbingly, that on November 2, 2014, the Respondent inserted his finger into the wounds of a deceased victim thereby completely contaminating any investigation for crime related DNA…”
Given that the referenced case was, like ours, a matter of distinguishing between suicide and homicide and given Mr. Jarnigan’s history and exceedingly poor handling of our case, we are consulting with our attorney to determine what, if any recourse we may have in light of these new developments. We note that the same judge, Ben Hooper II, presided over all three of the above referenced cases.

We will remind the Cocke County authorities and others of the following failures attributable to this individual as they pertain to the death investigation of our son, Alexander Heitman:
  1. Mr. Jarnigan failed to fill out a  coroner’s report. He arrived on the scene of our son’s death and appears to have accompanied his body to the local hospital and filled out a number of documents.
  2. Despite being on scene for between 3-5 hours, Mr. Jarnigan left evidence at the scene which included portions of Alex’s brain matter and a shotgun shell casing.
  3. Mr. Jarnigan did not complete documentation verifying who identified our son’s body. To date, our request for documentation signed by the individual who identified our son has gone unfulfilled.`
  4. We requested the complete set of unedited crime scene photos of our son’s body and the surrounding evidence. We received what appeared to be doctored, copy paper-printed photos. None of the photos show Alex’s face, the front of his body, the brain matter that was avulsed around him or any blood. Most of the photos taken of the surrounding area were missing all together. The license plate on his car, which was switched before and after he was found is blurred out. We would like to obtain copies of the actual SD card from the camera that was used since we’ve been informed that all of the original pictures have gone missing.
  5. Nearly every official record affiliated with our son’s death contains errors, some of great significance. Given Mr. Jarnigan’s role at the scene and at Baptist Hospital of Cocke County, we believe that most of these errors originated with his incompetence or negligence.
  6. Much of the hospital documentation was either incomplete or riddled with errors. The Instructions for Release of Body lacked both a physician’s and a witness’ signature and none of the criteria for autopsy were checked (it appears that at least four were applicable). Some of the documents give us reason to question whether or not the Cocke County Medical Examiner David McConnell ever actually examined Alex’s body. His signature is lacking on the files and appears to have been forged by Mr. Jarnigan on the actual Order for Autopsy. 
  7. The autopsy omits Alex’s legal first name entirely and refers to him only as “John Heitman.” It appears that this error originated with the Baptist Hospital of Cocke County. All of this hospital’s documentation lists him as John, even though they correctly documented his date of birth and the fact that he was an organ donor, both items would have been found on his driver’s license. Mr. Jernigan was at the scene, presumably escorted the body to the hospital and signed off on some of these files. Mr. Jarnigan is also hear stated his first name of Alexander repeatedly on the 911 calls.
  8. The autopsy also lists Dr. Tim McConnell as the authorizing authority; all other documents list the Cocke County ME’s name as “David H. McConnell, M.D.”
  9. The Delayed Report of Diagnosis (which serves as the final page of the death certificate and was completely handwritten) violated TN state law and contained a number of errors. These errors, which include placing him at home at the time of his death, may be traced back to the mistakes Mr. Jarnigan made.

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