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CHICAGO (CBS) — The overcrowding scandal at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has cost two workers their jobs and led to disciplinary action against a third.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, one of the fired workers has even more to worry about, as he was also charged with assault. Police tell the Chicago Tribune that when autopsy technician Joel Neason, 58, was told he would be disciplined, he threatened to return with a gun.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Neason apparently didn’t threaten any specific person, and he never made good on the threat to bring the gun to work, the newspaper reported. But on Tuesday, he was arrested at the Medical Examiner’s office, 2121 W. Harrison St., and released on a recognizance bond, the Tribune reported.
Officials would not tell the newspaper why Neason and the other employee were fired, nor why the third employee was disciplined.
The terminations at the Medical Examiner’s office come after conditions came to light about an overcrowded body storage cooler, which brought Bishop James Wilkowski, the Evangelical Catholic bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest, to the morgue to pray.
“It would make a cheap horror movie look good,” Wilkowski said.
Last month, a cell phone photo revealed bodies stacked up in blue bags outside the cooler. Meanwhile, the cooler itself was supposed to hold 300 bodies, but had been stuffed with 363.
Bodies were stacked on top of one another. Medical Examiner Nancy Jones called it an anomaly caused by a temporary disruption in state funding.
Burials since the scandal erupted have lowered the number of bodies in the cooler, but County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says the problems that the morgue extend beyond overcrowding.
Preckwinkle said the morgue would have daily inspections of the overstuffed cooler, and new technology will be used to help track down relatives of the dead who are brought to the office in order to speed up the burial process.
She also said the morgue will place time limits on how long the bodies of indigent people can be stored in the cooler, as well as how long the morgue will keep remains for families trying to collect enough money for a burial. The county will also put in place new training standards for the staff, as well as a new disciplinary process.
As it stands now, Dr. Nancy Jones’ term as the county’s chief medical examiner lasts until she steps down or is removed for cause. Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th) is sponsoring an ordinance that would allow the board to have the medical examiner removed by a simple majority vote.