Coroner’s office investigator disciplined after missing bullet wound, releasing body to funeral home

Investigator with coroner's officer to be disciplined for missing bullet wound; family speaks out

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A veteran investigator with the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office will be formally disciplined after missing a bullet wound on a body, then later releasing the body to a funeral home.

The coroner’s office released the body of Joah Ross, 26, to a funeral home because foul play was not suspected.

The body was later returned to investigators at the coroner’s office once the bullet wound was discovered. The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office completed an internal investigation into the incident.

Joah Ross, 26, was found dead inside a home on Jackson Avenue on New Year's Day.
Joah Ross, 26, was found dead inside a home on Jackson Avenue on New Year's Day. (Source: Family)

The investigator who looked over the body has investigated over 2,000 cases, according to East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark. The investigator has no prior blemishes on his record, said Clark.

Clark said he does not anticipate changes made to the office’s investigative procedures, noting everything was compliant with national standards.

Meanwhile, the victim’s family now believes this whole investigation may have been compromised, and they want answers.

“It sounds better to a person that feels like, oh, he was nothing but a junkie crack head person that they found dead in a house,” said Jamie Edwards, Ross’ sister.

Edwards and her brother, Royal Ross Jr., are pleading for answers about what happened at their mother’s home on Jackson Avenue New Year’s Day.

“For me, I just want people to understand that [Joah] was human. He does have family that loves him, like this isn’t somebody who was nothing,” said Edwards.

The family tells WAFB, on New Year’s Day, the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office investigator told them Ross died of an overdose.

“Come on out and tell my mom, there is no doubt it’s an overdose. Absolutely, overdose,” said Royal Ross Jr., the victim’s brother.

The day after Ross was found dead, the family says BRPD investigators came to their mom’s home to break some more heartbreaking news to them.

“And they were like, ‘We hate to have to inform you of this, but your son did not die of an overdose, he actually died of a gunshot wound.' And we’re like, ‘What?’ and I was like, I told them, it’s too much blood, I told them,” said Edwards.

The family says an employee at Hall Davis Funeral Home on Scenic Highway discovered the gunshot wound while preparing Ross for the funeral.

“And they removed the top of his clothing and found a gunshot wound, and whatever employee found it, they ended up reaching out to the police, and they had to bring his body back to the coroner,” said Edwards.

“Are you guys nervous at this point this case will be compromised?” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhé.

“I am,” said Edwards.

Now, they worry authorities are behind on the case and justice for Joah may be hard to find.

“We want somebody to take responsibility for this grave injustice that’s been done, because had everything been handled the correct way, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation,” said Edwards.

In a conversation with WAFB, Clark says investigators are still determining the cause of death. Clark notes he will not make any public appearances or release additional information about the incidents since it’s tied into what may potentially become a homicide investigation.

Ross is survived by two young children. The family says the plan is to lay him to rest Saturday, Jan. 11.

Joah Ross is survived by two young children.
Joah Ross is survived by two young children. (Source: Family)

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