View Mobile Site

Sheriff responds to deputy DA letter concerning Manteca murder

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED December 25, 2017 11:30 p.m.

San Joaquin County Sherriff Steve Moore has responded to criticisms that his internal policies have prevented forensic pathologists from responding to crime scenes even when they’re summoned by investigating officers or agencies.
In a statement released from the Sherriff’s Office on Dec. 21, Moore addressed some of the charges that were made in a 2011 letter from a San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney that alleged that Moore’s office – who received a request to dispatch the Medical Examiner to a murder scene in Manteca, but refused to do so – nearly cost prosecutors the conviction of Dawson McGehee for stabbing his mother to death and leaving her body in her bedroom for more than 24 hours while family members were in and out of the house.
According to Deputy District Attorney Sherri Adams – now the office’s Chief Deputy – the Manteca Police Department had their request for Dr. Bennet Omalu to visit the scene and determine the time of the death denied, and that allowed the defense to introduce the idea that his mother, Katy, was killed a day later than investigators alleged.
Her body was discovered by Manteca firefighters on Halloween in 2011, but detectives believed that she had been killed before and left in a back bedroom while McGehee and his sister were in and out of the house. He told his sibling that his mother wasn’t quite feeling well and had gone to bed, and after she hadn’t heard from her, contacted authorities who conducted a welfare check and made the grisly discovery.
The murder was profiled in an episode of the Oxygen channel television series “Snapped.”
“The San Joaquin County Coroner’s Office has a practice of dispatching pathologists to crime scenes, and pathologists have been requested and responded to multiple crime scenes,” Moore wrote in a statement. “According to this practice, pathologists are dispatched once there has been a specific request for Coroner services by the investigating agency.
“The purpose of this practice is to allow detectives to process relevant crime scene evidence in a pristine state prior to the arrival of the pathologist and/or Coroner’s Office staff.”
But Moore’s letter appears to be the first time that either he or his office have commented on Adams’ letter despite the fact that it was written almost six years ago, and since it was received many of the people listed in the letter – from Sheriff’s staffers to the Manteca detectives who were working the case at the time – have since retired.
“The Coroner’s Office is in the process of reviewing the Dawson McGehee letter,” Moore wrote. “This case is more than six years old; and staff assigned to the Coroner’s Office at that time have either retired, rotated out or are no longer working at the Sheriff’s Office.”
In her letter to Moore, Adams noted that even though Omalu was never notified that he was wanted on the crime scene – one of the many complaints that Omalu said drove him to resign from his position earlier this month – it was his meticulous autopsy that helped seal the conviction despite the fact that the defense called the timeline and the fact that the medical examiner never visited the scene into question.
Photographs and notes detailing the contents of the victim’s stomach helped Omalu determine the last time that she ate, even though the body was refrigerated prior to his examination. According to Adams, the “prolonged post-mortem interval, and the body being refrigerated prior to the autopsy, Dr. Omalu’s ability to perform forensic pathological analysis to ascertain the time of death was significantly impaired.”
McGehee was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...