State ME Board Holds Meeting, Discusses 'Destroyed' Wedding Ring
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma's chief medical examiner said he's never seen a situation like the one of the missing wedding ring that News On 6 covered recently.
Linda McIninch tried for 15 months to get her late husband's wedding ring back from the ME's office, only to be told they'd destroyed it.
She had a lot of questions so she I went to the ME's board of director's meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The whole meeting only lasted 15 minutes, but they discussed the missing ring for about half of that.
We heard for the first time that the ring was likely destroyed because the evidence closet is too small and had to be cleaned out.
We also learned the way it would've been destroyed was likely incineration. Hearing that brought tears to McIninch's eyes.
She doesn't understand why the ring was destroyed after the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the district attorney instructed the ME's office to return her late husband's ring; instead they destroyed it then didn't tell her for four months.
2/25/2015 Related Story: State ME 'Destroys' Man's Wedding Ring, Wife Wants Questions Answered
Chief Medical Examiner, Eric Pfeifer said, "To be honest with you, in my 21 years in the business, this is the first time this has ever happened to me."
He said they identified four problems they are now fixing:
- All staff must now document every time someone contacts the agency.
- From now on, only the office manager or the chief investigator can sign off on the destruction of evidence.
- The ME's office will only keep evidence 48 hours, then send it to the agency working the case.
- And, they'll create a grievance process for citizens.
“I feel like they're trying now, where as before, I didn't feel they were trying,” McIninch said. “I do feel like somebody is trying to get answers for me."
Board member Thomas Mortenson requested they talk more next meeting about who destroyed the ring and what, if any, discipline those people faced.
3/3/2015 Related Story: News On 6 Story Prompts Change In Medical Examiner Policy
"You have raised some significant questions and I'd like answers to those. Will we ever find out if the ring was destroyed or if someone took it? That's something I'd like to know," he said.
Mortenson said the board and chief have really turned the agency around in the past few years, concerning issues of accreditation and funding, and he believes they will fix this situation too.
"I'm absolutely confident we'll put a policy in place so this never happens again," he said.
McIninch is glad to hear that, but she'll never be able to pass her husband's wedding ring to their oldest grandchild for his wedding, which is why she wanted to back so badly.