Letter admonished investigator who misidentified homicide

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An investigator who mistook a homicide as a fatal overdose was issued a letter of reprimand for the error from the Louisiana coroner's office where he works.

W. Shane Tindall was found to be at fault for the misidentified cause of death, The Advocate reported, citing the letter by East Baton Rouge Coroner's Office chief of investigations Shane Evans, which was obtained through a public records request.

Joah Ross, 26, was found unresponsive in a home on New Years Day. Officials with the police department and coroner's office initially assumed the death was an overdose because drugs were found in the room where Ross died, the newspaper reported.

Funeral home workers later discovered a gunshot wound. Authorities launched a homicide investigation but the death remains unsolved, The Advocate reported.

“We must pause and imagine what could have become of this if the family had requested a direct cremation,” Evans said in the letter. “We are fortunate the funeral partner recognized the error and contacted us immediately,” he wrote.

The letter was put in Tindall's personnel file but he wasn't otherwise punished, Evans said. He added that Tindall has been with the coroner's office for over four years and hadn't had any prior issues.