Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Monrovia – The long-awaited autopsy of Odell Sherman who was unconsciously found in the home of Rev. Emmanuel Giddings in Duazohn, Margibi County on June 21, 2019, has concluded that the circumstances that led to her fall from an upper level platform in the clergyman’s home, may require further investigation, dealing more uncertainty to the saga which has been dragging for months and has put the deceased’s family and the government at loggerheads.
The autopsy report obtained by FrontPageAfrica came to the following conclusion: “There are no visible injuries of the external genitalia, vagina, or rectum. Nonetheless a post-mortem sexual assault examination was performed with evidence collection. All the injuries are consistent with a descent from the upper level platform in a single event impacting the broad surface of the tile floor. For these reasons the Cause of Death is best classified as Blunt Force Trauma of the Head due to Descent from Height Note: The circumstances that led to her descent from the upper level platform is unknown and requires further investigation.”
The autopsy performed by Dr. Roger Mitchell, a certified Medical Examiner out of Washington, D.C., was witnessed by representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Council of Churches and the deceased family.
The body of the deceased had been at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor in Gardnerville Township for nearly 100 days.
Odell was pronounced dead on June 21 after she was unconsciously found in the home of Rev. Giddings at his Duazohn, Margibi County and taken to the ELWA Hospital.
The report describes the cause of death from a blunt force trauma of the head due to descent from height.
No Mention of Alcohol in Report
The pathologist wrote: “The decedent is a 21-year old black African female who was found on a tile floor of an unfinished building. The decedent is reportedly found on a tile floor underneath an un-railed upper level platform that is approximately 16 feet above the location that the decedent is found. At autopsy the decedent has multiple abrasions and contusions of her back at her shoulders; the back of her left arm, and the front of her right leg. She also has a large bruise on the back of her head that is only visible after scalp reflection. There is blood coming from the left ear. Full dissection of the scalp reveals an impact site at the back of the head with a fracture radiating along the left lambdoid suture to involve the left temporal skull and internal petrous bone at its base. There is associated intracranial hemorrhage and brain swelling.”
There are no underlying fractures Minor Blunt Force Trauma of the Neck: There is a 1-inch abrasions overlying the posterior cervical spine. There are no underlying fractures These injuries are described by body region with the body in formal anatomical position. The order by which these injuries are described are not to establish a particular order of occurrence.”From Autopsy Report of Odell Sherman
A key omission from the report seen by FPA is that of alcohol. The report makes no mention of alcohol found in the deceased’s system. It can be recalled that some of Odell’s friends and schoolmates suggested that she had been drinking on the night in question.
The pathologist noted that the body was received clad in a pink tank-top, black bra, and grey skirt with slight to moderate and diffuse decomposition changes. “The body is cold and partially frozen from refrigeration. Rigor mortis is indistinguishable from frozen change. Livor mortis is posterior and fixed. The head has scalp hair that is short, curly, black and arranged in “corn-rows”. The rest of the head, neck, torso, and extremities are described under “Evidence of Injuries: External and Internal”. The irides are brown. The sclerae are white and the conjunctivae normal; both are without petechiae, hemorrhages, or icterus. Vitreous fluid is absent and the eyes are sunken due to decomposition. The dentition is natural. The mouth is unremarkable without injury. The abdomen is flat. The external genitalia are that of a normal adult female. There are no observable injuries to the vagina or anus.”
The report notes that there is blunt force trauma of the head with associated skull fracture and brain injury. It also notes additional abrasions and contusions of the neck, back, shoulders, arms and left leg.
The findings noted that the skull has an underlying fracture radiating right just above the lambdoid suture and to the left involving the lambdoid suture and extending to the left temporal bone. “The fracture also extends into the internal base of the skull involving the left petrous portion. There is blood at the external auditory meatus of the left ear. The left cerebral hemisphere reveals diffuse subarachnoid hemorrhage. There is general cerebral edema. Blunt Force Trauma of the Extremities: There is a 10-inch X 3/4-inch linear abrasion involving the posterior surface of the left arm and forearm. The left posterior wrist has a 3-inch abraded contusion. The right lower leg reveals a 11-inch X 1/2-inch linear abrasion involving the shin to the ankle. There are no underlying fractures.”
The pathologist also found multiple abrasions of the posterior shoulders bilaterally. “There is 3-inch by 3/4-inch abrasion of the right shoulder associated with the aforementioned linear abrasion of the left arm. The right posterior shoulder has a complex abrasion made up of 4 abrasions ranging in size from 2 inches to 2-1/2 inches. There are no underlying fractures Minor Blunt Force Trauma of the Neck: There is a 1-inch abrasions overlying the posterior cervical spine. There are no underlying fractures These injuries are described by body region with the body in formal anatomical position. The order by which these injuries are described are not to establish a particular order of occurrence.
The cross sections of the brain reveal no neoplastic masses, focal lesions, cysts, abscesses, or infarcts. NECK: The soft tissues of the neck have no injuries. The hyoid bone, laryngeal cartilages, trachea, and cervical vertebrae have no fractures.
‘The vagina and cervix are normal’
A test of the cardiovascular system found 200-gram heart has a normal configuration with a minimal amount of epicardial fat. “The coronary arteries are patent and have no arteriosclerotic disease. No acute thrombi are present. The atrial and ventricular chambers are not dilated. Both ventricles have a normal thickness. No focal endomyocardial lesions are present. The papillary muscles and chordae tendinae are not thickened, and the heart valves are unremarkable. The aorta has no significant atherosclerosis. The major arteries and great veins have a normal distribution.
A test of the respiratory system including the larynx and trachea area were found to be unremarkable.
A test of the endocrine system that includes the thyroid gland was found to be a normal bilobed configuration and is unremarkable. “The pancreas has a normal, lobulated pattern. The adrenal glands have no neoplastic masses, focal lesions, hemorrhages, or infarcts. The right and left kidneys weigh 100 grams, respectively. Both kidneys have no neoplastic masses, focal lesions, or infarcts. There are no abnormalities in the calyceal systems, pelves, ureters, or bladder. The vagina and cervix are normal,” the pathologist noted.
Dr. Mitchell Jr. is board certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology and a Fellow with the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). Dr. Mitchell is the new Chair of the Strategic Planning Subcommittee for NAME and is the Immediate Past Chair for the Deaths in Custody Subcommittee. Dr. Mitchell has recently served as the National Co-Chair for the National Medical Association’s (NMA) Working Group on Gun Violence and Police Use of Force.
He is a graduate of Howard University, Washington DC, and New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ. Dr. Mitchell is licensed to practice medicine in Washington DC. He has performed over 1400 autopsy examinations in his career and has testified as an expert on numerous cases.
He began the study of forensic science and violence prevention as a Forensic Biologist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – DNA Unit in January 1997.
As the Chief Medical Examiner of a major city, Dr. Mitchell is uniquely positioned to understand the social determinants that lead to the violence affecting our most vulnerable communities. He has a great interest in Violence as a public health issue and has recently co-authored position papers on The Violence Epidemic in the African American Community for the National Medical Association (NMA) and the Definition, Investigation, Postmortem Examination and Reporting of Deaths in Custody for the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME).
Pathologists Previously Rejected
Dr. Mitchell recently served on the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) for the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) frequently seek out his expertise on subjects such as violence, death investigation, and mass fatality management. Dr. Mitchell has lectured for the Governments of cities located in India, Egypt, Bangladesh, Belize, and Liberia as well as for the International Coroners Conference in London, England.
Dr. Mitchell, who has performed more than 1,400 autopsies in his career and has testified as an expert in numerous cases, came in after the Liberian government disqualified Dr. Rockefeller Cooper who was not licensed to practice in Liberia.
Before Dr. Rockefeller, Dr. Benedict B. Kolee was expected to conduct the autopsy but the family insisted that they did not trust the government’s handling of the investigation and would resist any further exclusive investigation of the corpse by the government.
In a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice from Odell’s family signed by Alphonso O. Sherman – father of the deceased – the family lauded the GoL “for the attention and commitment made to pay for the independent pathologist that was hired to conduct an autopsy on the remains of our late daughter, Odell P. Sherman.”
The death certificate previously reported by FrontPageAfrica mentioned bleeding from the ear, which according to the certificate, suggests that she either died as a result of sexual abuse or from falling, something the Police said is confusing and might only be established by pathologists who will determine the main cause of death.
With the conclusion of a respectable autopsy, another round of investigation could prove pivotal as the autopsy has now revealed it is unclear what led Odell to fall to her death? The unknown circumstances are likely to raise more questions than answers and fuel even more debate.