The York County Coroner’s Office and York County District Attorney’s Office have received threatening messages after reports on the death of U.S. Army veteran Everett Palmer Jr., who died in April 2018, according to the York Dispatch. A number of reports claimed that Palmer’s internal organs suspiciously went missing after his death and family members were left in the dark about what happened to the man’s throat, heart, and brain.
York County Coroner Pam Gay told the Dispatch the threats were “really ugly” and included emails saying “I hope you all die,” “rot in hell,” and “you’re going to be sorry.”
According to the York Daily Record, deputies from the York County Sheriff’s department have been assigned to watch over the agencies in light of the threats.
Authorities believe the threats are linked to news coverage that claimed suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Palmer, including reports that when his body was returned to the family, his organs were missing.
One specific report cited by the Dispatch is an article from New York-based broadcast station NY1, headlined, “No Throat, No Heart, No Brain: No Answers for Queens Family After Vet Dies in PA Jail.” The NY1 report claims Palmer’s family was unaware of the whereabouts of the deceased man’s organs.
“When we reached out to find out what happened to his organs, they initially lied. They directed us back to our funeral director and told us that we need to confer with them because they probably took the organs,” said Dwayne Palmer, the deceased man’s brother, according to NY1. “We want answers. We want to understand what happened,” he added.
Gay disputes the reporting, saying the family has known for over a year what happened to Palmer’s body parts.
“They’re just false allegations,” Gay told the Dispatch on June 10. “I was thinking, ‘Where is this coming from?’ … I was horrified by the way this was handled by the national broadcast media.”
Gay explained that it is standard practice for forensic pathologists to remove a subject’s organs in a death investigation, adding that this is what happened and family members were notified as required by law.
“I explained this to the family over and over again,” she told the publication. Gay also said she provided the family with an autopsy report in August 2018, several months after Palmer’s death.
She suggested a new attorney retained by the family had taken a confrontational approach to pressure authorities to fast-track the investigation.
“Eventually the truth will come out,” Gay told the Dispatch. “We’re going to take our time to do it right, as we do with every death investigation. … All I can say is, it’s being investigated thoroughly. It’s never been put on the back burner. We want justice for Everett too.”
Gay was cited by Fox 43 as saying that “at no time did we direct the family to the funeral home for ‘missing’ organs, and we did advise the family through their attorney at the time that the organs referenced, the heart, brain, and throat, had been retained by FPA (Forensic Pathology Associates) for further investigation.”
She said FPA is in possession of the organs pending the conclusion of the inquiry into Palmer’s death.
According to the York Daily Record, Palmer died on April 9, 2018, after he became agitated and started to bang his head on a cell door.
An autopsy found Palmer’s cause of death to be “complications following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint,” according to a July 28, 2018 news release from Gay, as cited by the Dispatch.
The coroner also found that a contributing factor to Palmer’s death may have been a sickling red-cell disorder.
No determination has yet been made as to the manner of Palmer’s death. Gay said that as more information comes to light, this may change.
“One of the reasons I ruled undetermined is because it was a mixture of a drug related, as well as some physical and health related concerns, that were brought forward,” Gay said, Fox 43 reported. “Plus, that physical restraint component with the death in custody.”
Palmer, a U.S. Army veteran and father of two, died in the York County Prison while detained on DUI charges.
The investigation remains active.