Family seeking answers after EBR coroner’s office misclassified homicide as drug overdose

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On New Year’s day, the family of Joah Ross received news that the 26-year-old father of two died.

“They told us he had died of an overdose.”

Jamie Edwards, Ross’ sister said, she had a gut feeling that something else happened to her brother, other than what the coroner’s office reported.

“I was told that with heart attacks and overdoses that once the body starts to have aspirations going on, once the body is completely deceased then some of that blood will start coming through the pores and stuff like that. But it was just too much.”

24-hours after trying to process their loved one’s death. The family received a shocking phone call.

“He said, you know, we’re sorry to inform you but your son actually was killed.”

The discovery of Ross’ true cause of death was discovered by a worker at a funeral home. It was their staff who alerted investigators, Ross had a gunshot wound to the torso.

“I got angry because at first, I was like this has to be a joke. Like someone made a mistake or something because somebody just couldn’t be that careless because I was standing next to my mama when the coroner came out and said that it’s without a doubt, it’s an overdose” said Ross’ brother, Royal Ross, Jr.

Monday afternoon, the funeral home confirmed Joah’s body was returned to the coroner’s office. In a statement, East Baton Rouge’s Coroner, Doctor William Clark said,

It is still under investigation and pending studies-Toxicology and histology. I have not ruled a cause or manner of death yet. This is an ongoing investigation.

William “Beau” Clark, East Baton Rouge Coroner

“They said he had drugs there, ok so they’re not going to check his body for bullet wounds. We not going to find out where all this blood is coming from. It’s just a mistake, it’s just a simple mistake but I’m watching my daddy come into the house and fall to his knees over his son” said Ross.

The family said, there are no words to describe the heart ache they feel, knowing a trained medical professional misclassified a cause of death.

“An apology is great but that still does not deter us from the situation.

Now planning the funeral for the man, a family said, made everyone around him laugh. They say, they won’t rest until there’s justice for Joah.

“From the initial point of it all, I felt like they didn’t care. They wanted to, this is what it is, lets slap a tag on it and go and that’s not fair and someone needs to be held accountable, period.”

Monday afternoon, Dr. William “Beau” Clark said,

There are two investigations:

1. The investigation into the death of an individual, Joah Ross

2. The investigation into the procedures followed by my investigator

William “Beau” Clark, East Baton Rouge Coroner

When asked has this type of incident happened before, Beau responded,

No we have not missed a gunshot wound before.

William “Beau”Clark” East Baton Rouge Coroner

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