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June 8, 2014

Backlogged autopsy reports prolong families' grief


In September 2011, around the time of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack, Richard Parker, then a Department of Homeland Security consultant, attempted suicide by ingesting the neurotoxin ricin, said Kimberly Parker’s brother, Ed Boleza. Kimberly found Richard and called 911, then Boleza.

“The house was lit up like the Ohio State Fair midway — FBI, local police, couple ambulances, mobile crime labs,” Boleza recalled. “They had moon suits to enter the house.”

Richard Parker recovered after a week in the hospital. A few months later, on Dec. 18, 2011, police responded to another incident at the Parker home. Kimberly Parker told police officers her husband had held her against a wall and threatened to kill her and her dogs. A grand jury indicted Richard Parker on charges of assault to murder.

But Noonan, Richard Parker’s attorney, said Kimberly Parker didn’t cooperate when the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office charged her husband.

By mid-December 2012, Richard Parker was living with Kimberly again.

On March 10, 2013, Richard Parker called his wife’s family to inform them Kimberly was being taken by ambulance to Brockton Hospital. When they arrived, he told them she had died—collapsing in the snow as she was walking the dogs.

The Office of the Medical Examiner took jurisdiction, as it does in deaths involving infants, suspicious circumstances or otherwise healthy people. The long wait for answers began.

In the meantime, Noonan points to Kimberly Parker’s history of seizures caused by a traumatic brain injury. He said in January 2013 she had one episode while walking the dogs. Noonan said he’s tried to tell the Medical Examiner Office about the condition but “they have refused to speak to me.”


In 2007, a series of scandals rocked the Medical Examiner Office. There were missing corpses, unclaimed bodies piled in overcrowded facilities, and pools of blood on autopsy room floors. A review by the Executive Office of Public Safety found the Medical Examiner needed an $11.5 million annual budget and 17 full-time medical examiners. Chief Medical Examiner Henry Nields said he’s asked for that funding every year since then.

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