After a News On Six investigation, the State Medical Examiner's office has changed its policy when it comes to handling the jewelry and other property of those who are killed.
The ME's office sent out a letter to every law enforcement agency in the state, explaining the new policy, after our story on a woman who spent 15 months trying to get back her late husband's wedding ring, only to be told the ME's office had destroyed it.
Linda McIninch's husband Gary died in a hit-and-run boat crash in July of 2013. She began calling the ME's office right after that, letting them know she wanted his wedding ring back when they could release it.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the district attorney both sent letters to the ME saying the ring should be given back to her, but months after that, the ME's office said they destroyed his ring - months earlier.
"I'm just sitting there bawling. What do you say? What do you say? What do you do? It's gone. It's gone," said Linda McIninch, widow.
After our month-long investigation, the ME's office sent out a letter to police agencies saying in part:
"... in light of recent error on our part, we had to update our policy on evidence collection....The problem has become the accumulation of evidence.. It often sits in our evidence locker for months and even years. This is a liability that we cannot endure any longer..."
"I don't want it to happen to anybody else," Linda said. "There's no reason someone should have to lose their spouse's wedding ring. No reason whatsoever."
The new policy says the ME's office will no longer handle the evidence, that it will be returned to whatever agency is working the case and they can choose to dispose of it or give it back to the next of kin.
It says the agency working the case has 48 hours to get the evidence and must arrive in person to pick it up.
It will also now document anytime someone contacts them about jewelry and other items and will send a copy of those calls and letters by certified mail to the agency working the case.
Linda tells me she's glad the policy has been changed, so hopefully no one else will ever have to go through this. But she still has a lot of questions about her husband's ring, so she and I are going to attend this week's Board of Directors meeting for the Medical Examiner's office, to try to get her answers.