Coroner Quits as 180 Bodies Pile Up in Morgue

Mark Fajardo says goodbye to LA County Coroner's Office
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2016 3:00 PM CDT
Updated Mar 13, 2016 3:30 PM CDT
Coroner Quits as 180 Bodies Pile Up in Morgue
This 2014 photo shows Dr. Mark Fajardo, Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner, posing with a specimen in a laboratory at his office in Los Angeles.   (Isaac Arjonilla/Orange County Register via AP)

With dead bodies stacking up and a budget that apparently falls short, the LA County coroner has quit his job. Mark Fajardo abruptly announced last week that he's resigning after two years as top medical examiner, the LA Times reports. "Ultimately, I wasn’t supplied the resources I need to perform my job duties," he says. "Every year we made requests for positions that needed to be filled. ... Each year we were not supplied the personnel we need." Meanwhile, 180 bodies are awaiting examinations in the morgue, and toxicology tests are taking more than half a year to complete, delays that tie up funerals, life insurance payouts, and civil and criminal cases. "It's nuts," Fajardo tells the LA Daily News of the backlog. "It's been progressing for a number of months now."

But it's hardly surprising: A 2010 county audit predicted physician shortages there, and forensic pathologists tend to become private pathologists to make more money, the LA Times reports. Yet Fajardo's office—one of the nation's busiest, the AP says, with about 8,500 physical examinations per year—was facing a $3.2 million budget cut. Now the office could lose accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners, meaning autopsies and other work there would lose credibility. "It means the job’s not being done properly," says David Fowler, head of the association. As for Fajardo, he's going back to his old job as top forensic pathologist in Riverside County. (An Orange County defense attorney says he was bloodied by a district attorney's investigator in a courthouse hallway.)

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