Coroner Changes Institution Resident's Cause Of Death
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 18, 2006
BREMERTON, WASHINGTON--A county coroner has changed the cause of Kristina Shannon's death from acute overdose to "undetermined" after independent experts reviewed the case and the state of Washington threatened to take him to court.
Kitsap County Coroner Greg Sandstrom had originally accepted the opinion of forensic pathologist Emmanuel Lacsina, that Shannon, 29, had 5 1/2 times the normal amount of the antihistamine chlorpheniramine in her system when she suddenly died on July 2, 2005.
Her father, Denny Shannon, said his daughter had autism and intellectual disabilities, and could not have taken the drug on her own.
Officials with the Department of Social and Health Services objected to the Sandstrom's initial ruling and ordered a separate investigation, saying that the coroner's report did not match medical records kept by staff at Frances Haddon Morgan Center, the institution where Shannon had stayed for 20 years. They hired outside consultants who investigated Shannon's death and reportedly concluded that Shannon did not die of a drug overdose, but instead of "natural causes".
In changing Shannon's cause of death to "undetermined", Sandstrom said it does not mean she did not die of overdose. He added that his decision was based on advice from several experts, and not because of pressure from the state.
"That didn't have any influence," Sandstrom told the Kitsap Sun, "I would have gone to court."
Shannon's death was not reported to police until after the September 4 death of Jenny A. Jessup, 27, who was also a resident of the institution, which houses about 50 people. Jessup's death was later attributed to a blood infection caused by a ruptured bowel. The institution's superintendent, Carol Kirk, said Shannon's death was not reported earlier because it was not considered unexplained or suspicious until Jessup's death.
Denny Shannon said he is still suspicious.
"I am totally unconvinced. I want somebody to be found either negligently responsible or criminally responsible," he said. "The only thing I want to know is who killed her, how did she die."
"Haddon Morgan Death No Longer an Overdose" (Kitsap Sun)
"Washington State Institutions: Frances Haddon Morgan Center" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)