Georgia police have opened a homicide investigation after "suspicious injuries" were found on the neck of a man whose death was initially attributed to natural causes.
Ray Neal, 61, was found dead in his home in the Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville on Saturday by his sister Michelle Smalls, the Gwinnett County Police Department said in a statement. Officers called to the scene noticed blood on the bed, the bathroom walls and the shower curtain, and then secured the scene because it "seemed suspicious," according to the police report.
Smalls told the officer that her brother had a history of high blood pressure, liver problems, Hepatitis C as well as drug and alcohol problems. Police said homicide investigators were made aware of the findings at the scene, but it was "not immediately clear" if the blood was related to his medical conditions or a crime.
A medical examiner's investigator determined Neal's death to be from natural causes, and his body was released to a funeral home. Funeral home employees discovered the "suspicious injuries" on his neck when they were moving the body.
"She was in. She went in all of 10 minutes and said it was natural causes," Smalls told WSB-TV. "The funeral home director came to pick him up. When he walked in, he said, 'This is something totally different than what they said.'"
The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy Monday to determine his cause of death, police said.
"Based on the results, the case is now being investigated as a homicide," police said in a statement. "The injuries are now believed to be stab wounds."
Police asked anyone with information about the case to contact detectives at 770-513-5300. To remain anonymous, tipsters can also contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477) and potentially receive a cash reward for information leading to an arrest or indictment or visit www.stopcrimeATL.com.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia man's death ruled natural until funeral home found stab wounds