MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It’s bigger, better, and more efficient. Now law enforcement investigating deaths can get preliminary evidence from the medical examiner's office in real time. It's all thanks to the state of the art West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center.
There are no more issues of space, contamination, or even privacy for victims' families in the new facility. The $13 million forensic center serves 20 counties west of the Tennessee River. The new building was in the making since the late 1980's. The facility is located in the 600 block of Poplar Avenue, just a mile away from the old one on Madison Avenue. Shelby County workers officially moved in on June 22 but this is the first time the public was able to see what the new multi-million dollar facility has to offer.
"We've taken a huge leap forward in technology with our digital x-rays," said Forensic Investigator Director Sean Lester.
The most notable difference from the old building to the new one is the space. There were only two autopsy stations in the old building, now there are six.
"The facility also gives us the ability, like the Nashville location, to handle multiple counties and be a true regional forensic center,” said Lester.
There is also a special room where investigators can get evidence from doctors right away.
"Detailed wound patterns, provide finger prints, and any other evidence in real time. They don't have to wait for the doctor to finish all the cases or call them, they will get information right there,” said Lester.
Dealing with the dead brings an array of smells, diseases, and can be quite messy, but that won't be an issue in the new facility.
"We have specialized rooms for infectious disease cases. There are tables that have a down draft which is used to suction away infectious particles,” said Shelby County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Chancellor.
Even though there are more workers and more space to conduct autopsies that does not mean homicide cases will be worked more quickly. The Shelby County Medical Examiner says it all depends on toxicology reports, medical records, and police investigations. On average an autopsy report can take 6 to 8 weeks to complete.