MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Coroner Dr. Jennifer Ogle spoke to the News Friday about the challenging work she and Licking County Coroner Robert Raker face as they continue to conduct autopsies on the three Knox County homicide victims discovered in a wooded area west of Fredericktown, Thursday afternoon. Ogle worked on the autopsies most of the day Friday and expects the work to continue throughout the weekend.
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“This is a very complicated and unusual case,” Ogle said. “That being said, we’re using our standard procedures.
“We’re just beginning the process and it can be a lengthy process,” Ogle said.
“I’m hoping these autopsies will be completed by Sunday or Monday,” she said. “I plan to make some kind of media release tomorrow [Saturday], which may or may not include cause of death.”
Ogle said she could not comment on whether or not weapons were used against the three victims.
“I don’t want to comment on that until I know the cause of death,” she explained. Ogle did say she had not found evidence that firearms were used to injure the victims.
There are numerous rigorous forensic procedures Ogle said medical examiners must follow in order to pristinely preserve evidence, and determine the cause of death.
Ogle was at the crime scene Thursday where investigators were able to remove the trash bags containing the remains of all three victims from inside the hollow tree where they were discovered.
“In order to preserve the evidence, the bodies were then immediately transported to the Licking County Coroner for autopsy,” Ogle explained.
Before working on the forensic examination Friday morning, Ogle said, she met with the homicide victims’ families to answer any questions they had about the necessary tests which would be conducted, as well as to offer support to the grieving loved ones, who continue to await word on how their family members were killed.
“My priority today was the family,” Ogle said.
As well as declining to answer specific questions publicly about what kind of weapon may have been used against the victims, Ogle would not give any details regarding the condition of the bodies removed from the tree. Ogle said she would not do so before updating members of the victims’ families.
“I want to make sure I’ve taken good care of explaining things to the families before I speak about it to other people,” Ogle explained.
She said she hoped to release a press statement sometime today, but was unsure what details she would be able to share.
The statement may or may not include cause of death, Ogle said.
She described the forensic work she and the other coroner’s personnel are conducting as careful, tedious and critical work.
“At this point, we’re not in a hurry because they’ve been recovered and we want to do this thoroughly, and correctly, as far as the autopsies go,” Ogle explained.
She said toxicology tests are always among the many tests conducted in a forensic autopsy. Those results can take several weeks, but other preliminary results, such as the type of weapon(s) believed to be used in the murders, or the overall condition of the bodies, should be available to the public before the final autopsy report is released.
When asked how important the careful methodical work, and strict adherence to forensic procedures is to the outcome of an investigation, Ogle quickly provided her answer.
“It’s critical to get every detail right in coming up with a cause of death and to be able to provide the family and loved ones with the answers they need,” Ogle explained.
She said people react differently to grief; each experiencing loss in their own way, and as the death investigations proceed, the bereaved require different answers as they process their loss.
“Some people need all those [forensic] details as a family in order to get closure. Some people can move on without all the details,” Ogle explained.
She explained she does her best to accommodate whatever amount of information she can legally provide to families, to help them through the devastating process.
Ogle said she hopes the autopsies will assist with the pending prosecution of the case, as well as provide at least some needed closure to the grieving families.
But Ogle said the case is not one she can simply set aside as she returns home after work.
“It would be impossible not to be emotional about this,” she said. “We’re all emotional about this, but we approach it in a scientific way, not allowing our emotions to get in front of us.”
When asked if this case has affected her differently from others she has worked on in past investigations, Ogle does not hesitate.
“Yes,” she said quietly. “I think it’s been different all the way down for everyone involved.