Mistakes in the Wayne County morgue: Never-before-seen apology letter to family after man’s body left decomposing for 22 days

Family comes forward with Wayne County morgue story after seeing Local 4 Defenders reports

The Local 4 Defenders have been talking to families upset about how their loved ones have been treated at the Wayne County morgue.

The Local 4 Defenders have been talking to families upset about how their loved ones have been treated at the Wayne County morgue.

The Javizians are one of those families. They came forward with their story after seeing the others.

“I told him we have to call. He said he was hesitant. And then after the second story and you said more about it, I said, ‘Garry.’ And he said ‘Yeah, we need to call.’ I said yes we need to do this!” said Patti Javizian.

Note: If you have had a problem with the Wayne County morgue, contact Local 4′s Karen Drew by email at kdrew@wdiv.com.

Get Caught Up: What the Local 4 Defenders have learned about issues at Wayne County morgue

With that phone call came a new twist to this saga including a never-before-seen apology letter from the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office as well as the story of Gregory Javizian and what happened to his body inside the county morgue.

It’s taken four years for Garry and Patti Javizian to publicly speak about what happened to their 32-year-old son Gregory. But after seeing other families come forward to the Local 4 Defenders about how their loved ones were treated at the Wayne County morgue, they felt the time was right.

“That was the last humiliation. Now he has to have a closed casket because his body is in such bad shape,” said Garry.

The Javizian’s have something besides a horror story about how their son was treated at the morgue. They have documents they are sharing only with the Local 4 Defenders. But first, they’re sharing Gregory Javizian’s story.

Gregory was adopted by the Javizians, raised in Troy, and ran into trouble with drugs at a young age. He was a father who loved his children. It was July of 2017 when Gregory’s body was found behind Orchestra Tower at Woodward Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Detroit. He was found laying in a field. He just couldn’t beat his addiction.

“Just because he was a drug addict ... he has family. He’s loved ... it’s a disease that takes over his body. He couldn’t get out from under, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad person,” said Patti.

In the family’s lawsuit against the Medical Examiner’s Office it states Gregory’s driver’s license and Social Security card were on him when he died. The medic pronounced “death by drug overdose” and the family contends “there was no need for an autopsy.”

But Gregory’s body was brought to the morgue and “before even attempting to identify the body " an autopsy was performed, the lawsuit states. The suit also states the medical examiner “intentionally mutilated” Gregory’s body “without consent.”

“So it was a disgrace,” said Garry.

Gregory’s body would sit at the morgue, decomposing, for 22 days. The lawsuit states the morgue was “denying the Javizians the comfort of knowing their son had been given a peaceful and dignified resting place.”

“People would say to us, ‘Patti and Garry, we feel sorry for you,’ and I’d say, ‘Do not feel sorry for us, feel sorry for Gregory,’” said Garry.

The Javizians sued, got a small settlement, and got what they really wanted: An apology from the medical examiner, Dr. Carl Schmidt, and a plan for change.

“You have our sincere apology for our office not taking the proper steps to notify you in a timely manner,” the letter reads.

Dr. Schmidt went on to say this was a “very rare but serious” incident and that the office has “instituted certain changes” so this kind of “error is not repeated.”

“I thought, well, they’re doing something and we’re very, very much encouraged, and we were happy, we accomplished something,” said Garry.

However, the Javizians started seeing the Local 4 Defender investigations and realized the issues at the morgue have not been fixed. It was time to speak up and go public, and demand one simple thing:

“What I’m looking for are human beings to take care of a very human tragedy,” said Garry.

The Javizians said they are hoping employees at the morgue will speak up and demand change since it appears this behavior has not been stopped by management.

Meanwhile, I did receive a statement from Schmidt stating:

“Recently, several cases were brought to our attention regarding delays in identifying decedents and the notification of family members. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office strives to provide accurate and timely service in this area, and by far, succeed in the majority of cases. Where this did not happen is being investigated and reviewed. Deficiencies that are identified in our process will be addressed in a follow-up plan to be shared with Wayne County and the University of Michigan Department of Pathology. Two of these recent cases prompted a change in our case management software that immediately identify those cases that have not been released. Overall, the WCMEO has continued to provide a quality service during unprecedented challenges resulting from the opioid epidemic, COVID-19 pandemic and severe workforce shortages. We apologize to the families where this has not been the case.”

It’s worth noting many of the cases have happened before COVID-19 and the work shortage hit.

By the way: When the family asked why there was such a delay by the morgue in informing them about their son, they said they were told the person in charge of their son had gone on vacation, so his body just sat there.

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About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.