Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Jewelry gone after autopsy of corpse

Sister wants to know who is responsible, but officials have no answers

By Jim Hannah
Enquirer staff writer

FORT THOMAS - Jane A. Phillips had to cope with the pain of her brother's suicide in January.

Ten months later, she is coping with another pain - the loss of her brother's jewelry.

Two rings of her brother, Richard David Phillips, went missing between the autopsy and the cremation.

Phillips said she isn't looking for compensation - the rings have more sentimental value than monetary value. But she wants someone to be held accountable for the missing jewelry.

"From my perspective, there is no good answer to what happened," said Kenton County Coroner Dr. David Suetholz.

No one has been charged with a crime despite at least one internal investigation and two police inquiries. One of the rings was a woman's ring Mr. Phillips wore on his pinkie. The other was a silver ring from his grandfather. But a third ring was still on his hand.

The rings appeared to have disappeared after the autopsy at the Northern Kentucky State Medical Examiner's Office at St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas, Suetholz said. He said he cannot recall anything else disappearing during 20 years in the coroner's office. He also said he doesn't want to "pass the buck" by blaming St. Luke.

A spokeswoman for Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, the parent of St. Luke hospitals, said their own investigation found no proof the rings were stolen. "We always take concerns about missing property very seriously," said hospital spokeswoman Pat Samson. "We did an exhaustive search for the rings and found nothing."

She said the facility handles 700 bodies a year from eight Northern Kentucky counties and rarely, if ever, have there been reports of missing items.

Phillips said hospital officials suggested the two rings might have fallen off in a body bag from the morgue to the funeral home. She said officials question why someone would just take two rings when her brother was wearing three.

"I just wanted someone to apologize," she said, "and say this is what we have done to make sure it doesn't happen to another grieving family."


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