To research North Carolina’s medical examiners system, the Observer obtained and analyzed a database of more than 120,000 deaths since 2001, including records on all aspects of death, from the local medical examiner’s investigation to the autopsy and toxicology tests.
Reporters also analyzed documents from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner pertaining to the deaths in Boone, as well as data relating to Dr. Brent Hall. They obtained investigative materials from state agencies, including a hazardous materials incident report from the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Also, they viewed 325 photographs from the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors that document serious problems in the Best Western’s swimming pool heating system. Reporters examined lawsuits, property records, inspection records and incorporation documents relating to the Best Western.
Reporters interviewed hotel representatives, officials with police, fire, medic, planning and inspections in Boone. They also spoke with the district attorney. They talked with dozens of medical examiners around the country and with spokesmen for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina. They interviewed members of the Williams and Jenkins families.
Two North Carolina officials declined repeated requests for interviews: Dr. Deborah Radisch, the chief medical examiner, and Dr. Aldona Wos, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees medical examiners. Hall also declined to comment.