Skip to comments.Complaint says autopsy missed pregnancy, botched murder case
Posted on 11/10/2004 11:02:10 AM PST by Michael Goldsberry
The parents of Ashley Nicole Wilson, whose death was ruled a suicide and then changed to a homicide when her killer confessed, have filed a complaint with the state about their daughter's autopsy.
The girl's parents, Renee Coulter and Dan Wilson, say the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office did not detect their daughter's pregnancy despite an obstetrician's examination showing she was pregnant seven days before her death.
"We just want this brought to light. We believe the M.E.'s office made a huge mistake and it needs to be looked into. We don't believe they are doing their job correctly," Coulter said Tuesday.
Because the autopsy showed no pregnancy, the man accused in her death, Dan Leach II, could not be charged with capital murder, which carries the potential of the death penalty. Texas law defines a fetus as a person, and killing two people in the same criminal act falls under the capital murder statute.
Leach was charged with murder, pleaded guilty and received a 75-year sentence from a Fort Bend County jury in August.
Beverly Begay, chief forensic investigator for the medical examiner's office, defended the quality of the autopsy Tuesday, saying a full procedure was performed. The medical examiner's office sticks to its finding that Wilson was not pregnant, she said.
Leach confessed to police after the case had been closed about two months, telling detectives that one of the reasons he came forward was that he had been moved emotionally after seeing the movie The Passion of the Christ.
Coulter and Wilson sent their letter of complaint to the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.
"If there is something there that would be the subject of action, then they would proceed with a full investigation," said Jane McFarland, special projects director for the agency.
Coulter said the medical examiner's office performed only a perfunctory autopsy after sheriff's detectives found what they interpreted as a suicide note.
"We just think he (autopsy doctor) surmised that she killed herself and was not going to bother to find out any other information," she said.
Despite the parents' suspicions, investigators considered the case closed until Leach, 21, showed up at the sheriff's headquarters March 9 and confessed to the slaying.
Leach gave police a lengthy interview in which he described how he planned the killing to make it look like a suicide. Leach told police Wilson, 19, was pregnant with his child and he did not want to have anything to do with her or the baby, investigators said.
After Leach's confession, detectives reopened the case and the medical examiner's office changed the ruling to homicide with ligature strangulation listed as the cause of death.
One witness called to testify for jurors considering Leach's punishment was Dr. Ferdinand Plavidal. He said he examined Ashley Wilson on Jan. 8, and performed an ultrasound test showing she was between 6 and 7 weeks pregnant.
Plavidal said that while miscarriages do happen, he believed it unlikely she had a miscarriage. But he could not explain why the autopsy showed no signs of pregnancy.
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