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Local Medical Examiner Involved in Best Western Autopsies Resigns, DHHS Sec. Wos Releases Statement

By Jesse Wood

June 18, 2013. Last Friday, Dr. Brent Hall, the local medical examiner who performed autopsies on the three individuals who recently died in Room 225 of the Best Western hotel in Boone, submitted his resignation to the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, according to Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

A scene of Best Western from two days ago when the hotel was under control of authorities. Photo by Ken Ketchie
A scene of Best Western from two days ago when the hotel was under control of authorities. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Other than saying that Hall’s resignation was accepted by the state, Diaz offered no other details about his resignation. The N.C. Office of Chief Medical Examiner appointed Hall to conduct autopsies in Watauga County.

Hall performed autopsies on Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, who died on April 16, on April 17 and 18 and listed the probable cause of death as “?OD?” according to Hall’s Request for Toxicological Analysis on the Jenkinses to the state, which was received on April 22 and 23.

Among other things, Hall requested an analysis for carbon monoxide toxicity.

However, Diaz said the analysis, which found that the Jenkinses, who were both in their early 70’s, had blood concentrations of carbon monoxide greater than 60 percent, was emailed to Hall on June 1 – one week before 11-year-old Jeffrey Williams died in the same room of the same hotel with the same levels of carbon monoxide toxicity.

Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford, at a press conference on June 10, two days after Williams died in Best Western, said that the Jenkinses toxicological results had just been received within 24 hours at the time. Crawford added that his department re-requested those results on May 29 and were told those were unavailable at the time.

Diaz couldn’t answer why authorities weren’t notified of the elevated carbon monoxide levels in Room 225 before Williams passed away and said that would be a question for Hall. Before his resignation, Hall deferred questions on the Best Western deaths to the Boone Police Department.

Although Williams’ toxicological results arrived quickly after his death, Diaz said his staff didn’t expedite the results of the Jenkinses in late April and early May because the probable cause of death was listed as an overdose. He also added that most carbon monoxide deaths occur in house fires, vehicle fires and suicides. 

Regarding the deaths at the hotel, Secretary of the N.C. DHHS Aldonus Wos released this statement:

“My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of Shirley and Daryl Jenkins, and young Jeffrey Williams. These deaths were a tragedy that should have never happened,” Wos said. “The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to gather the facts. I have instructed my staff to work with local officials to identify measures to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.”

For more background into carbon monoxide deaths at Best Western, click here