Family seeks answers after veteran's body came back from prison missing throat, heart, brain

The body of an Army veteran, who died last year during his time at a Pennsylvania prison, came back to his family without a throat, heart and brain; and now, his loved ones are seeking answers. 

Everett Palmer Jr., who was 41 years old at the time, was pronounced dead at around 5:46 a.m. on April 9, 2018 at a hospital in York, Pennsylvania, according to a report from the York County Coroner's Office. He had been housed in a single cell at York County Prison.

His death came just two days after Palmer had traveled from his home in Seaford, Delaware to resolve an outstanding warrant for a DUI charge from 2016. 

The coroner's report said around 4:20 a.m. the Monday morning of his death, Palmer “became agitated and began hitting his head against the inside of his cell door.” 

York County Police officers responded to the incident and were eventually able to “restrain the inmate,” according to the coroner's report. Palmer was then taken to the York hospital, where he was pronounced dead, despite medical intervention. 

But when Palmer's body was returned to his family, his throat, heart and brain were removed, the Washington Post reported. Attorney Lee Merrit, who is representing the family, told the paper that the body parts went missing for several months and had not been returned to the family. 

There was “so much mystery and unanswered questions in a way that violates every policy and procedure the state has,” Merritt told the Post. "It’s not uncommon to remove body parts in an autopsy in order to perform a test. The only thing that’s highly uncommon is to not know where they are.”

The family is now pursuing criminal and civil cases, according to the paper. 

The Pennsylvania State Police agency has said that is investigating in conjunction with the York County district attorney. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office told Fox News on Thursday that it does not comment on pending or ongoing investigations.

The coroner’s office ruled Palmer's official cause of death as “complication following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint,” the Post reported. A sickle-cell disorder was said to be a probable contributing factor, but the manner of death was still undetermined, the report said. 

Merritt told the paper that the family hired an independent pathologist, who first flagged the missing organs, and said the manner of death should be considered a homicide. 

Brother Dwayne Palmer told NY1 that while the family was carriers for sickle-cell anemia, his brother did not have it.

"We want answers. We want to understand what happened," Dwayne told the station.

Another family attorney told NY1 that brains and hearts are sometimes removed for autopsies, but not a throat.

"Makes no sense, unless you're trying to maybe avoid people knowing how he died; which was maybe by asphyxiation," attorney Marlon Kirton said.

Chief Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley declined the Post's request for comment on Palmer’s death because the case is “still under investigation."

Merritt told the paper that the Palmer family had met with the York County district attorney and that prosecutors were considering a grand jury investigation into the death.

The family started a Justice4Everett Facebook page, along with the hashtag #JusticeforEverett.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.