Kansas City Police Change Cause of Death From Natural to Homicide After Funeral Home Finds Bullet Holes in Man's Head

Police and medical examiners who thought a man died of natural causes changed their minds after funeral-home workers found bullet holes in his head.

The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that three bullet wounds — two of them in Anthony Crockett's head — were noticed after the man's body was embalmed Friday. The funeral home returned the 49-year-old Kansas City man's body to the Jackson County medical examiner's office, and police counted the death as a homicide.

Detectives and Jackson County medical examiners never visited Crockett's home to inspect his body. A paramedic told police he believed the death was natural after finding prescription containers for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes in the home.

Crockett's girlfriend, who had called police after finding his body, told authorities that he had heart problems for years.

Police noted blood on Crockett's face, but victims can bleed from natural causes or a fall. They did not collect forensic evidence, and by the time the mistake was realized and investigators secured Crockett's house as a crime scene, relatives already had cleaned it.

It was the second time in 17 months that a Kansas City funeral home returned a homicide victim's body mistakenly ruled a natural death by the medical examiner's office.

The other case was in September 2007 and involved Lorraine Grayson, 77, who had been beaten and sexually assaulted in her home. Police later found out that Grayson's purse was missing and her 46-year-old neighbor was charged with her death.

"This kind of mistake is a pretty bad mistake," said Thomas Young, the former Jackson County medical examiner who now runs a private forensic pathology practice.

Jeph BurroughsScanlon, a Jackson County spokesman, said standard protocol was followed in Crockett's case, but he added that the county is concerned and looking into its practices.

So are Kansas City police.

"We're going to be reviewing how we handle these kinds of cases, to see if anything needs to be changed," said Capt. Rich Lockhart, a police spokesman. "It's a system problem, and we need to figure out where the breakdown in the system occurred."