Medical Examiner Resigns in Wake of North Carolina Motel Death

June 18, 2013

A North Carolina medical examiner has resigned after investigators found out that he knew carbon monoxide killed a couple in a Boone motel a week before an 11-year-old boy died in the same room.

The Charlotte Observer reported Saturday that Watauga County medical examiner Dr. Brent Hall resigned Friday.

Toxicology tests completed June 1 by the Office of the State Medical Examiner showed lethal levels of carbon monoxide in the blood of Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72. She and her husband, Daryl Jenkins, 73, a Longview, Wash., couple, were found dead on April 16 at Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza.

Hall failed to share those test results with local health officials who could have shut down the motel.

Jeffrey Williams of Rock Hill, S.C., died in Room 225 the following week.

Investigators later determined an improperly ventilated pool heater located a floor below the room was the source of the gas. Experts say medical examiners should warn police and fire officials immediately after toxicology tests show someone could have died from carbon monoxide to prevent future deaths.

Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said state officials are reviewing how the cases were handled.

Diaz said Hall failed to make the state aware that officials needed to act urgently.

Documents show that Hall requested the toxicology tests on the couple and wrote that the probable cause of death might be an overdose.

Hall did not return phone calls or respond to emails seeking comment. He is among more than 400 state-appointed medical examiners who are paid $100 per investigation.

Darrell Williams, the uncle of Jeffrey Williams, said Friday that he is angry the hotel was allowed to continue renting the room when the state knew it might be dangerous. He said the medical examiner’s office had an obligation to warn authorities about the threat.

“It doesn’t cost any money to pick up a phone and call,” Williams said. “At the very least, that should have been done. A human of average intelligence would have called.”

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