The Waiting Room

Some come here because they were lonely or frustrated.

Others come because things got a little too heated or someone took one too many steps in the wrong direction.

And yet a few more don’t really know why they ended up here.

But, whatever the cause, it’s a safe bet Vern Adams welcomes them with open arms.

“Here” is the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s office, where they’re dying to get new business, acquainted or not, Jane Smiths or John Does.

Adams is the kind of person Jerry Seinfeld might label a “low talker,” but don’t let his tone of voice fool your perception of his attention to detail.  Adams meticulously files each unknown deceased in a room color coded to represent the manner of death.  He is particularly worried, though, about the patients he doesn’t get to see.

“I’m more worried about the bodies we don’t bring in versus the ones we do,” said Adams.

The office mainly deals with deaths of the malicious kind.  According to statute 406, the medical examiner must investigate deaths when the person dies in the state of criminal violence, accident, suicide and sudden death while in apparent good health.  The bodies that fit this description typically come to Adams and company with unknown identities.

The medical examiner’s office moved to its current location in 2008 from its former digs in downtown Tampa in order to house more bodies.

A recent roadside find brought Lisa Ann Mowry’s remains to the office.   Missing since 2004, her bones were discovered in mid March on the side of Interstate 75, almost 6 years to the date after she was reported missing.  Adams and his staff confirmed Mowry’s identity early Tuesday morning.

Mowry is lucky to have an identity, and hopefully her family is able to give her remains the proper burial.  It isn’t that way, however, for most bodies that end at the examiner’s office.

“Some families may not claim the body,” said Adams.

In this case, the office is responsible for body disposal whether through cremation or burial.

And, as far as documents go, the office is a veritable light at the end of the tunnel for journalists.

“This is kind of the endpoint of public records,” said Adams, with a simple grin.

1 thought on “The Waiting Room”

  1. I really like how you broke apart the examples you used, made it very clear and kept me interested, like always, good job!!!

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