LIVINGSTON — Several elected officials are calling for creation of a morgue for Livingston Parish following an incident in which a fetus important to a criminal case accidentally was cremated before autopsy.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ron Coe, the parish coroner, said Tuesday he has made temporary arrangements to use Tangipahoa Parish’s morgue for bodies involved in Livingston Parish criminal cases, rather than placing those bodies in a private funeral home.
Coe said he has been trying for years to get a morgue for Livingston Parish, which he asserts has grown too large not to have one.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said he, too, thinks it’s important for Livingston Parish to have a morgue of its own in which to store bodies in criminal cases until autopsies can be conducted.
Accidental cremation of a fetus that was cut from the womb of its mother last week voids the possibility of prosecuting the suspect in that case on a count of murder, Perrilloux said.
Previously, Perrilloux had said if evidence showed that the fetus had begun to breathe before it was killed, that the feticide count might be upgraded to a count of murder.
The accidental cremation never would have happened if Livingston Parish had its own morgue, said Chief Judge Bob Morrison, of 21st Judicial District Court.
An employee of a funeral home that had agreed to hold the fetus in its cooler “mistakenly removed and cremated the Reynolds fetus prior to autopsy,” the coroner said last week.
“I’m sick over it, and everybody involved is sick over it,” Coe said Tuesday.
Parish President Layton Ricks said he wants to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.
Ricks said he is working to find the money to provide the coroner with a place to store bodies prior to autopsy.
Coe said his office is updating costs it had prepared previously for the parish to use in making a decision whether to buy a specialized cooler able to handle several cadavers simultaneously.
In light of the recent incident, Coe said he is hopeful parish government will find the money for such a cooler, which would be installed in a secure building.
Coe said he already has a possible location in mind. The place has 24-hour security every day of the year, but Coe declined to give the location because details haven’t been worked out yet.
He said that eventually, he would like to see the Coroner’s Office and the morgue headquartered in the same building.
The incident that brought the issue to light came after Jeffery Reynolds, 31, 30259 Milton Road in Walker, was arrested and booked last week on a count of attempted second-degree murder of his 28-year-old wife and on a count of first-degree feticide.
Reynolds remained in the Livingston Parish Detention Center Tuesday in lieu of $500,000 bail.
His wife, who was seven-and-a-half months pregnant when attacked, remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday.