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Local medical examiner resigns

by Anna Oakes

The regional pathologist who conducted the autopsies of three people who died from carbon monoxide in Boone Best Western room 225 has resigned, Watauga Democrat has learned.


"Dr. (Brent) Hall has tendered his resignation to the chief medical examiner, and it has been accepted," said Ricky Diaz, communications director for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, on Friday.


Diaz did not provide additional information about the circumstances of the resignation. 


State toxicology results listed carbon monoxide toxicity as the cause of death for Daryl and Shirley Jenkins, who died in the room and at the hospital, respectively, on April 16, and Jeffrey Williams, an 11-year-old who died in the room June 8. 


Documents from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner indicate the toxicology request for Shirley Jenkins was received April 22 and the report completed June 1 -- one week before Jeffrey Williams and his mother stayed in room 225.


A DHHS spokesperson said the requests for toxicology results for Shirley and Daryl Jenkins were not expedited by the state office because the request forms indicated the cause of death was believed to be an overdose. No circumstantial information was shared with the department that communicated a need to expedite the request, he said.


April 17 and 18 "Request for Toxicological Analysis" documents obtained by Watauga Democrat shows that Hall indicated the probable cause of death of Shirley and Daryl Jenkins to be "?OD?" and that he requested tests for alcohol, organic bases and carbon monoxide for both cases.


The state office's documents indicate the toxicology request for Daryl Jenkins was received April 23 and the report was completed June 9. The spokesperson said toxicology tests can take time because they test for hundreds of different parameters that require different levels of review.


However, the spokesperson said the "need to be expedited was known" in the toxicology request for Williams. An Office of the State Medical Examiner document indicates the report for Williams was completed June 12.


"If it has to be expedited, it is expedited," the spokesperson said.


The Boone Police Department announced Friday that state toxicology results confirmed carbon monoxide toxicity as the cause of Williams' death, stating the department was contacted by Hall late Thursday afternoon.


The blood concentrations of carbon monoxide were greater than 60 percent for Williams and the Jenkins couple, the toxicology reports indicated.


"Twenty percent saturation of hemoglobin induces symptoms (headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, increased pulse and respiratory rate)," according to a Mayo Clinic website. "Sixty percent saturation is usually fatal."


Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when CO binds to hemoglobin and prevents delivery of oxygen to the tissues.


Police said earlier this week that the cause of death in the Daryl and Shirley Jenkins was not believed to be suspicious in April but that the cause was listed as undetermined pending state toxicology results. Police said they repeated their request for the results on May 29 but were told the results were unavailable.


Police said on June 10 that they had received the toxicology results for Daryl and Shirley Jenkins "within the last 24 hours." Boone Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Shane Robbins reconfirmed this statement on Friday.


Investigators on Wednesday said preliminary tests pointed to the hotel's swimming pool water heater as the source of elevated carbon monoxide levels in room 225, noting several deficiencies that led to carbon monoxide entering room 225 through the gas fireplace area and through the room's heating and air conditioning unit.