GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A family wants answers to know who stabbed their loved one to death and how an investigator with the Gwinnett County Medical Examiners misinterpreted the cause of death.
Michelle Smalls discovered her brother’s body in the bedroom of a home in the 400 block of Lexington Drive in unincorporated Lawrenceville on Sunday afternoon after he hadn’t answered his phone. Police said she confirmed his body was that of 61-year-old Ray Neal.
Smalls told FOX 5 News she saw large amounts of blood on the floor, the walls, even a shower curtain.
“I knew it more than what was being said, when I walked in and see that amount of blood it’s something else,” said Smalls.
What was being said had to do with Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office Investigator Shannon Byers. According to the police report, Byers examined Neal’s body and determined the cause of death to be natural. The report state Byers released the body to Byrd and Flanagan Funeral home. But the police report explained, once at the funeral home, an employee noticed a hole in Neal’s neck.
That’s when the Neal’s body was returned to the morgue where a further autopsy determined he had been murdered, the medical examiner’s office confirmed to FOX 5 News.
Neal’s sister was critical of the oversight.
“What kind of peace do you have about doing that to someone that’s lost a loved one. You had one job to and you failed at that,” said Smalls.
The police report also states the 61-year-old had medical issues.
Eddie Reeves, chief inspector for the Medical Examiner's Office, said medications involved could have added to bleeding and confusion.
“Could have clotting issues and therefore would bleed a little bit freer than normal,” said Reeves.
He also said despite the mistake, the case was not compromised.
“Everything we obtained and could obtain, we would have been able to obtain. The examination was not hindered at all by any time frame or anything like that,” said Reeves.
Investigators are on the search to find who killed Ray Neal and why.
“I know it was someone he knew because he didn’t let anyone in his house,” said Smalls.
The Gwinnett County Police Department urges anyone with knowledge in the murder of Ray Neal to call Gwinnett County detectives at 770-513-5300 or or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS.