Liberia: 62 Days Gone Still No Autopsy Done on Late Odell Sherman

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Monrovian – Sixty-two days have come and gone since Odell Sherman was pronounced dead after she was unconsciously found in the home of Rev. Emmanuel Giddings at his Duazohn, Margibi County and taken to the ELWA Hospital.

Her body is currently at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor along the Somalia Drive, Gardnesville Township. 

An autopsy is expected to establish the cause of death as the current death certificate produced by the hospital is sparking “confusion,” the police said in early June.

Early July the Government announced that an autopsy was to be conducted but to date, it has not been done on grounds that the family of the deceased objecting to the pathologist.

The family insists that they do not trust the government’s handling of the investigation and will resist any further exclusive investigation of the corpse by the government.

“They played with the crime scene, [and] up to now since we wrote the Justice Ministry and requested the call log – the call she received before she went to Rev. Giddings yard – but they have refused.

“We don’t trust the government alone to do anything with our daughter’s body. We are not going to allow them to touch the body until our own independent man we sent for be there and all of them conduct the autopsy.”

The family recommended Dr. Rockefeller Cooper, the Forensic Consultant, who asked the Government to allow him to get the toxicology specimens and samples of forensic concerns since he would not be allowed to perform the autopsy. 

But Solicitor General Sayma Syrenius Cephus, while addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Information, claimed that he [Rockefeller] does not have the requisite credentials to carry out an autopsy.

Cllr. Cephus referenced the role of Rockefeller as a paralegal who assists lawyers in a legal proceeding but is not licensed to practice law.

“We know that the Liberian law under the criminal procedural law of Liberia does not say that the family or anybody should witness an autopsy be conducted,” he said.

“The law says that a coroner should examine the body but if the coroner is not a medical doctor, you should summon a pathologist.”

Chapter 7.4 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia states: “The coroner may, if he is unable to ascertain the cause of death by preliminary examination, perform, if he is a competent medical practitioner, or authorize to be performed by a competent medical practitioner, an autopsy on the body of the deceased for determining the cause and circumstances of death. 

Dr. Cooper cliamed he has submitted to the Liberia Medical Dental Council a letter of attestation which proves that he did complete his medical studies at the Winter University School of Medicine. 

He added that his actual Diploma wasn’t submitted because he has not met some financial obligation to the school which has to be fully cleared before his diploma is released.

When a local group under the banner, ‘March for Justice’, an advocacy alliance of organizations advocating the rights of girls and women met President George Weah.

He assured family and the protesters that the Government of Liberia will take responsibility to pay the cost for hiring any qualified pathologist when brought in by the family of the late Odell.

“It is very saddening to always hear or see our mothers, sisters and even teens continually molested and victimized by heartless people in this country,” the President said.

He added that the protection and defense of women’s and girls’ rights will remain paramount to him personally and his government generally.

“My taking of the title, ‘Feminist-In-Chief’ is not for bluff; it is rather to always stand up for the cause of women and girls and against perpetrators of sexual gender-based violence,” the President said.

He continued, “In line with my responsibility as the President of Liberia, and Feminist-In-Chief, my government will at all times provide the necessary protection, and defense for women and girls, who face discrimination, abuse, and violence.”

Police have earlier announced that they have spoken with many persons of interest but they were released to their lawyers. The police, however, said statements taken have not shown any link to the incident.

Rev. Giddings, the owner of the home where Odell reportedly went unconscious before her death, has since been declared a “person of interest” by the police although he has not been officially charged.

There were six others undergoing investigation including a man identified as Abraham, who reportedly helped to put the unconscious Odell in a vehicle to be taken to hospital.

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