More than 100 autopsies backlogged after pathologist moves out of state

SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC) - One missing report is holding up the investigation into a deadly Southaven police shooting.

There are also at least 100 other deaths that are also waiting on medical examiner Dr. Lisa Funte, who has moved out of state.

Dr. Funte was sworn in as Maine's chief medical examiner in January. Her office said she is working hard on the backlog of autopsies.

Meanwhile, it has been almost a year since Ismael Lopez was shot and killed by Southaven police.

"She's been frustrated for nearly a year," said Murray Wells, attorney for the Lopez family. "It's almost a state of confusion about what's happening and sometimes that confusion kind of bleed over to us. What are we doing. We're telling her we are waiting for answers ourselves."

Ismael Lopez was shot and killed when Southaven police went to the wrong house last July.

The autopsy report has not been completed, even though the physical exam on the body and toxicology results were completed back in August 2017.

Dr. Funte conducted the autopsy.

Her office in an email wrote, "Dr. Funte has been traveling back and forth to Mississippi to fulfill her dedication to any open cases she investigated."

It is going to take a lot of dedication because Sam Howell, the director of the Mississippi Crime Lab, said Dr. Funte has more than 100 Mississippi autopsy reports that have not yet been written.

"I'm shocked," Howell said. "It's just terrible for the families. There are 100 families that are out there wondering the cause of death for a loved one."

Dr. Funte is not the only doctor behind on Mississippi autopsies. The state has a huge backlog with only two forensic pathologists to do more than 1,400 autopsies annually.

North Mississippi DA John Champion said it can take up to a year to get autopsy reports that will tell the cause and manner of death.

Champion said there are at least three homicide cases that can't be prosecuted right now because the autopsy reports are not finished.

"What concerns me more is the victim's families are having to sit on hold while we can't do anything with our cases until we get the results back and move forward," Champion said.

Champion said it used to take two to three months to get a full autopsy report, and he and Wells said families wonder if there is a cover-up.

"It's very difficult for people to understand," Wells said.

The Southaven police chief said one of the officers involved in the shooting of Ismael Lopez has quit the force and the other one is on desk duty.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation completed its report on the Lopez shooting months ago, but it won't be released until the autopsy report is complete.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.