East Ga. coroners sending bodies to metro Atlanta

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - Eastern Georgia coroners say they’ve been struggling to send bodies to suburban Atlanta since the Georgia Bureau of Investigation failed to replace a retired medical examiner at its regional crime lab.

The examiner in Augusta’s lab retired in the fall of 2013 and GBI officials say the position was moved to Decatur, just east of Atlanta. Despite a six-figure salary, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Sherry Lang says there’s been a roadblock in finding a forensic pathologist to work in Augusta’s regional crime lab.

“None of the qualified examiners want to move to Augusta,” Lang told the Augusta Chronicle, (http://bit.ly/1gPQque ) “They want to be in Atlanta.”

Former Regional Medical Examiner Daniel Brown was paid more than $141,000 in 2013.

“We’re still getting everything done and we’re doing everything we can to get those cases prioritized,” Lang said. “We’re doing everything we can to accommodate the coroner’s offices that we serve.”

Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen said his office pays a transportation company about $500 for each body to be sent to Decatur and back for examinations. He and Burke County, Coroner Susan Salemi say they’ve each had to make adjustments to deal with the unexpected costs.

“The budget was already done,” Bowen said. “Now we’re having to work it out the best we can.”

Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins says he bought a refrigerated van in 2003 that he uses to drive bodies nearly 135 miles each way to Decatur himself so only gas money has to come out of his budget.

“It’s a problem, but I’ve adjusted to it,” he said.

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Information from: The Augusta Chronicle , http://www.augustachronicle.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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