INDIANAPOLIS — On August 18, 2021, Garon Craig’s husband, Scott, went to work and never made it home.
“He was nine days before his 47th birthday. He had a massive heart attack,” Craig said.
For weeks since he’s passed, she’s been calling the Marion County coroner’s office to obtain his death certificate. Now, the single mother of three with no benefits, found herself at a standstill.
“I understand they have protocols they have to go by. I get that,” Craig acknowledged. “But we are suffering out here. We can’t get the benefits that we need for our kids because if you don’t have a death certificate you have nothing.”
She explained she was told by someone at the coroner’s office they were waiting on the pathologist to do the toxicology test and it could be more time.
“I just want to know why this is happening to families because I know there are people worse off than me without a death certificate right now. I do know that,” she said. “And even our funeral director told me today that everybody is in this situation. It’s not just me. It’s everybody.”
“Where we are to date, we are more than 200 cases over last year, which last year we thought was an unprecedented historic year,” Alfarena McGinty, Marion County Chief Deputy Coroner said.
Already surpassing last year’s death investigations by more than 200 cases in Marion County alone, McGinty said they’re trying to figure out how to best address the surge in cases.
“We are still like, right in the middle of a pandemic, and the epidemic of drug overdose deaths, and the epidemic of homicides,” McGinty said. “So between the three of those, we are still in the thick of it. We are not getting a break.”
She said there’s a national shortage of forensic pathologists. Last year, they had to hire four additional traveling pathologists on top of their four existing in-house staff members to help with the case load.
They’re at a point she says where they are running into a shortage of space. "So, we have an off-site facility where we stored deceased and at our on-site facility and we are at capacity,” McGinty added. “We are at capacity to date.”
“Something needs to change,” Craig said. “Something needs to be brought to their attention to say, 'OK, this is a flawed system let’s fix it.'”
When WRTV reached out to the coroner’s office, they said the death certificate is now available and had someone reach out to Garon Craig to let her know. The coroner says they can work with funeral homes to issue a pending death certificate if they’re waiting on reports to come back.