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Examiner denies calling autopsy request 'unusual'

Before he issued a controversial autopsy report on Martin Lee Anderson, Bay County's chief medical examiner said it was "highly unusual" that the local sheriff requested him to perform the procedure in the first place because the death did not occur in his county, according to a state report.

Dr. Charles Siebert, though, went ahead with the autopsy and declared that the 14-year-old died as a result of complications from a common genetic condition - a finding that experts have roundly panned - and not the kicks, punches and takedowns from the Bay sheriff's own boot camp guards Jan. 5.

Siebert stands by his report, and now denies saying the request was "highly unusual" because Martin died in a hospital in neighboring Escambia County, and not in Bay.

The phrase was the only thing put in quotation marks in a Jan. 9 memorandum written by Dr. Shairi Turner, chief medical director of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice. Turner's five-page report is laden with medical-jargon bullet points from her review of documents and her interviews of medical professionals, including Siebert, who came into contact with Martin.

Turner, too, is standing by her memo that quotes Siebert.

"She's confident in that quote. She wrote it down as they were talking, " said Cynthia Lorenzo, spokeswoman for the DJJ, which oversees the Bay Boot Camp run by the sheriff in Panama City.

But forensic investigator Kelsey Welch, a spokeswoman for Siebert, disagreed.

"He has been misquoted. He said that is very common, " she said, but could provide no other examples.

Other medical examiners say it's rare - not unprecedented - to switch the performance of an autopsy from the jurisdiction in which the death occurred to another when law enforcement agencies request it for convenience. But the controversy is being viewed one way by supporters of Martin's family: as a coverup.

"It's home cookin' " said Benjamin Crump, lawyer for Martin's family. "It's more evidence that this is a coverup. As early as Jan. 9, Siebert is wondering: 'Why is it brought to me?' And now he's saying he's being misquoted."

Crump said Martin should have had an autopsy in Escambia County, where he died at Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital. The family is also concerned about ties between the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and thesheriff's office. FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell was Bay's sheriff and founded the boot camp. An FDLE spokesman said it's conducting a fair probe.

Jeff Martin, chief investigator for Escambia's medical examiner, said his agency didn't perform Martin's autopsy "as a courtesy" to its Bay counterparts and FDLE.

"It's not uncommon to change jurisdiction, " said Martin, but noted that in his two years in the office he had never seen such a request.