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  1. #1
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    Jul 2009
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    Default Finding the Legal Reports From a Suicide Case

    My question involves court procedures for the state of: Alabama Conecuh County

    A relative (apparently) committed suicide while working at the Court House. He was the Records Manager. It is confirmed the relative committed suicide, but I cannot find one item of documentation regarding his death. The conflict is that he apparently shot himself twice with a shot gun. I've not been able to even find an obituary.

    In addition, the same relative had a dad, living in the same city, also committed suicide by shooting himself with a shotgun. In fact, there have been other questionable deaths in this area over the years, mostly by people arguing over land ownership. Of course, there's more to the story, but for now, I would just like to find documents of authority (or even a sticky note!) to understand what really happened. One death was in 1970 and the other was 1987.

    My question is: where would I find the court documentation (or any documentation) describing the deaths of these people? Can other family members keep this information from being accessed?

  2. #2
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    Jan 2008
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    1,948

    Lightbulb Re: 1998 Suicide in Al Court-Where Are the Legal Reports

    I'd start here:

    JOANN HARPER
    CONECUH COUNTY CORONER
    P O BOX 942
    EVERGREEN AL 36401
    (251) 578-1623

  3. #3
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    Cool Re: 1998 Suicide in Al Court-Where Are the Legal Reports

    Thank you! I'll call and see where it goes.

    Is it possible for a family member to make any and all notices and news be unattainable by anyone else (even other family members) in the process of legal finalization?

    Or, can it be as simple as hiring a technical organization to scan, destroy or hide any and all mentions of people and events?

    Thanks again,

    Barbara

  4. #4

    Default Re: 1998 Suicide in Al Court-Where Are the Legal Reports

    Death certificates are public record, so no, family has no influence over them. But as indicated, they are records of the county medical examiner, so you'll likely find nothing at the courthouse or in court records (as would be typical).

    With that said, it's not uncommon to find "nothing" else in suicide cases. Obituaries don't write themselves, so unless someone submitted one, there'd be nothing TO find. Many suicides simply aren't covered by the press or otherwise splashed out to the public unless there was something about the incident to make it "juicy" or newsworthy - such as a famous person, someone in political office, someone involved in the limelight, or the method was bizarre or committed in public.
    Catherine NeSmith
    Executive Director
    AARDVARC.org, Inc.
    http://www.aardvarc.org

    Fave Big Bang Theory site: Sheldon Cooper Fans

  5. #5
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    Arrow Re: Finding the Legal Reports From a Suicide Case

    I honestly have no idea - but I'm sure the medical examiner's office will be able to answer at least your first question.

  6. #6
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    Jul 2009
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    Default Re: Finding the Legal Reports From a Suicide Case

    Being involved in the IT industry for a long time, as I have, I know there are companies who specialize in company reputation and I presume they would work for individuals just the same. Thanks -- Barbara

    Thanks for your input, Aardvarc. The lack of being able to find anything, makes sense given your explanation of the process. However, you said:

    "or the method was bizarre or committed in public"

    and, since this person, who worked managing the court records, shot himself twice with a shotgun, WHILE HE WAS AT WORK. Maybe this seems par for the course for people who commit suicide, but it seems to me that since:
    1) the suicide was done in the public building i.e., the Conecuh County Court House,
    2) there had to have been a big mess that many people needed to clean it up/see it all
    3) it took TWO shots from a shot gun, not ONE to do the job (suspicious to me), and finally,
    4) one of the persons with whom he had just been in litigation with, over land ownership, also committed suicide in that same time frame.

    Even with that, I do not have any legal (or otherwise) documents that prove these details. I traveled there a month ago and talked directly to family members. One told more of the story and the other, the sister, lied about everything. The suicide in the court house and the sister, had a father who also shot himself (with a shotgun), 17 years earlier. All the documents I have seen show these men as being constantly involved in building their lives and doesn't show signs of someone ready to off themselves.

    Our connection to this is our Grandfather, who died in 1945, and whose parents left property and mineral rights to us. Now, the sole remaining person with the property is lying about everything, and her boyfriend apparently owns the property identified in the Wills and Deed we have in hand.

    I'm trying to figure out what happened why it happened, and obtain the documentation to trace the pieces back together. The truth should be exposed.

    Just a couple more questions - are attorney's the only ones allowed access to court hearings or is this accessible to others? Aren't the documents supposed to be filed in the court house? Do court records management ever get audited? One case started in 1973 went to 1981 and I found the original files in the County Library!


    Thanks,

    Barbieo

  7. #7

    Default Re: Finding the Legal Reports From a Suicide Case

    Quote Quoting Barbieo
    View Post
    1) the suicide was done in the public building i.e., the Conecuh County Court House,
    During business hours one might suspect that SOME local news source would have picked it up. After hours, probably not.

    2) there had to have been a big mess that many people needed to clean it up/see it all
    Which would have been accomplished by a private company in most cases (companies who specialize in biohazard crime scene cleanup), and who probably are subject to confidentiality as part of any standard contract for those services whether with a government agency or for a private client.

    3) it took TWO shots from a shot gun, not ONE to do the job (suspicious to me), and finally,
    Would be suspicious if the weapon was a single barrel; double barrels would account for a two shot discharge.

    4) one of the persons with whom he had just been in litigation with, over land ownership, also committed suicide in that same time frame.
    Certainly would raise suspicion. But without reading the medical examiner's report (the ONLY way that ANYTHING can be confirmed regardless of what other sources say) that in and of itself would still pale if the autopsy otherwise pointed to suicide. You need to get your hands on that report as it'll be the definitive source for unbiased information.

    Just a couple more questions - are attorney's the only ones allowed access to court hearings or is this accessible to others? Aren't the documents supposed to be filed in the court house? Do court records management ever get audited? One case started in 1973 went to 1981 and I found the original files in the County Library!
    It depends. On a lot of factors, particularly the type and nature of the case in question, and whether the judge or the parties involved pushed for records to be sealed.

    Once a case is closed, that's pretty much it and the records are sent to storage. These days, more likley to be scanned and stored, and the originals kept for some number of years and then destroyed.

    But again, for a suicide investigation, nothing happens in the courtroom - it's all accomplished via the medical examiner and only goes further (ie to law enforcement) if the cause of death is ruled or suspected as criminal activity - then criminal charges move to court once a suspect is charged. Typically the only way a suicide case is bright into court is when family sues an insurance company for not paying on a life insurance claim (or when an insurance company files to get money already paid BACK after a fraudulent claim or new evidence comes to light that would have made the claim non-payable).

    Just remember as you dig into this, that some of the people who are giving you information may have their own agendas - which may NOT include being truthful with you, and, may NOT have all the facts (especially if THEY either didn't directly witness what happened or they don't have a copy of the autopsy report either). Beyond that report, it's all speculation, so start there.
    Catherine NeSmith
    Executive Director
    AARDVARC.org, Inc.
    http://www.aardvarc.org

    Fave Big Bang Theory site: Sheldon Cooper Fans

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Finding the Legal Reports From a Suicide Case

    Thank you, Aardvarc.

    As far as finding any documentation on the suicides (any of them), it probably makes more sense to get any information from the medical examiner, if possible, as you've already pointed out. I put a call into that office today, but don't expect to hear back until next week.

    Secondly, the files I discovered in the library help to show at least one previous controversy - even so, from what you're saying about the record keeping process, it may not have been that unusual to find those documents in the library as I did.

    Finally, you are SO RIGHT - the people telling the stories have their own agenda's and right now, ALL I have are their stories. It will be interesting to find out what credible documentation shows if it turns up. The sister who first mentioned that her Dad and her Brother (court house suicide) committed suicide ultimately ended up with the property and her boyfriend has the piece of property identified in the Wills and Deed that conveyed it to my father, which is really the main point of all the research. We got an oil and gas lease to sign, but there is significant discrepancies with the land descriptions and the lease, which is what started us down this road of discovery.

    Nevertheless, the contextual information involved in the entire storyline sure are curious -and- illusive.

    Thank you again,

    Barbieo

  9. #9
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    Cool 1998 Suicide in Al FOLLOW-UP and Question

    Hi again,

    Since we started this thread, I've left numerous messages for the coroner's office as suggested, however, I've received absolutely no response. I understand everyone is busy and it's hard to find time to return calls (or answer the phone, I guess).

    Even still, I really want to find these cases as there are numerous ones related to each other.

    Is there any other way to obtain the reports from the medical examiner? Is there a coroner out of the state of Alabama that would have access and could request it? Or, should I make a request through the legal system or?

    Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks - Barbieo

  10. #10

    Default Re: 1998 Suicide in Al FOLLOW-UP and Question

    First, I'd put your request in writing and send it with a return receipt requested.

    Second, I'd ask specifically that the reports be made available within 10 business days. If you want to pick them up, state so - otherwise include a large envelope with plenty of postage.

    If you still get no response, then it's time to start calling up the chain of command - starting with your Board of County Commissioners (who pay the salary of the medical examiner and staff) and your state's Attorney General (under whom a medical examiner is appointed). It also can't hurt to read up on your state public records disclosure policies, so that when someone in the office hemms and haws and says they don't think they can release XY or Z documents, you'll have the answer as to where the authority to do so stems from.
    Catherine NeSmith
    Executive Director
    AARDVARC.org, Inc.
    http://www.aardvarc.org

    Fave Big Bang Theory site: Sheldon Cooper Fans

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