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Want to be a Missouri coroner? You likely qualify and one family says that needs to change

Updated: Mar. 31, 2022 at 5:00 AM CDT
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Gilliam, Mo. (KCTV) -- Nearly 11 years after his son died, Jay Minor is still unsure of how. He knows what the death certificate lists as the cause of death but has no confidence that it’s accurate.

When asked if he knows why his son died, Jay Minor replies, “No. I never will.”

“I trusted that coroner that was supposed to know what he was doing and I can’t ever take that back,” said Minor.

Jaykeb Minor was 27 years old when he died. No autopsy was done. Blood was drawn, but then lost. A back-up vial was later tested about two years later. But, Jay Minor questions whether it was really his son’s blood.

At first, Jayke’s death certificate was pending. Then, the cause of death was listed as drug overdose.

But, the toxicology report shows only marijuana. So, maybe he didn’t die from an overdose after all. Later, the cause of death was listed as cardiac dysrhythmia—meaning Jayke’s heart stopped.

The family told us that, on the official death report, another person’s name was scratched out then Jaykeb’s name written above it.

The coroner in Jayke’s case wasn’t a doctor. It is not a requirement for the job in Missouri. Missouri has some of the lowest standards for coroners in the nation.

(KCTV5 News)

Above are the current requirements to become elected in Missouri: Be a U.S. citizen, be 21 years old, live in the state for one year, and live in the county for six months.

As a comparison, in Kansas one must be licensed to practice medicine or surgery to be a coroner.

“The bigger question to me is how many families did this happen to that nobody ever knew?” questioned Minor. “Because they trusted that coroner.”

Since Jayke’s death, the family has been pushing for changes in the requirements for coroners.

“We have to make sure this doesn’t happen to somebody else,” said Minor.

The family was expecting things to change in July of 2020. They were by Governor Parson’s side when he signed a new law.

The law created the Missouri State Coroners Training Fund and called for a commission to address the low standards set for coroners in Missouri.

But almost two years later, that committee has struggled to even get seated.

“I mean, this is the law now,” said Minor. “What’s going on? Why aren’t these people in place? We’ve worked so hard to try to get this taken care of.”

We spent weeks trying to connect with leadership members of the Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association. That committee is finally meeting in April, but not all the members of the new commission are seated.