A 41-year-old U.S. Army veteran called his brother to tell him he was heading to New York to visit their sick mother. Before he left, he needed to make sure an outstanding DUI warrant in Pennsylvania was settled to be sure his license was valid.
Two days later, on April 9 of last year, Everett Palmer’s family was told that he had died in police custody at York County Prison. The Palmers are still looking for answers.
According to CNN, their suspicions were heightened when their loved one’s remains were returned without his heart, throat, and brain.
An initial autopsy said Palmer died “following an excited state” during which he “began hitting his head against the inside of his cell door,” a result of “methamphetamine toxicity” with a “sickling red cell disorder” as a contributing factor. Palmer’s family maintained Everett never had health problems. They also say reports of self-harm are completely out of his character. While Palmer did have some history of drug use, his family says he never abused methamphetamines, and prison records provide no indication that Palmer was under the influence of any drugs.
In June of last year, the Coroner’s office updated the result to include a manner of death, which was listed as “undetermined,” though the report says details of the autopsy may be corrected as information is made available.
Attorney Lee Merritt told CNN that the “entire case smacks of a cover-up.” The Palmers retained Merritt to get to the bottom of Everett’s death. So far, Merritt says local authorities have been uncooperative.
According to York County Coroner Pam Gay, the organs were removed for forensic autopsy. Palmer’s family did not know the body was missing the organs until they hired their own forensic pathologist.
“There were never any missing organs,” Gay said. “The lab that does our autopsies has the organs. Coroner’s offices don’t always have a morgue or a forensic pathologist. We contract those services out. We utilize a team in Allentown. That’s who retains the specimens. They don’t always tell us what they retain. We made that clear to the family from the beginning.”
Gay said the throat was removed to “make sure there wasn’t any kind of component that caused asphyxia,” according to CNN.
While Merritt agrees the practice is standard, he’s still flummoxed by misinformation over the location of the organs. Palmer’s family was unable to track down the organs for seven months before they were told to check with the funeral home, which hadn’t touched the body.
Later, the coroner told them the organs were at an independent lab. The lab, for its part, has refused to hand over the parts, citing an ongoing investigation.
Everett Palmer’s brother, Dwayne, was the last family member to speak to the vet, described as the “life of the family.”
“We don’t believe anything [authorities] are telling us at this point,” he said. “It’s a tremendous loss for our family. We are devastated.”