On June 2, 2010 Montgomery County was notified by Dr. Brown who operates the forensic center in Conroe, Amarillo and Tyler that on July 3, 2010 the Conroe Center would close it’s doors. According to Browns attorney in Beaumont thefacility was no longer economically desireable to operate.
At current the county which sends over 500 bodies a year to the forensic center for autopsy was running month to month after their five year contract expired.
After it was discussed in executive session today Commissioners said they were going to make the creation of a forensic center operated by the county a top priority.
For fiscal year 2009, Montgomery County paid the Forensic Center $1500 for each autopsy of which there were 315. That was a total of $472,500.
For the current fiscal year $582,000 was budgeted of which 195 autopsies have been performed at a cost of $292,500.
Southeast Forensic Center also performs autopsies for other counties. These include Austin County which has had seven this year. Brazos County which has sent fifty-seven to Conroe this year. Trinity County has sent twelve to the center. Walker County who also sends their bodies to the Dallas Area sent fifteen to Conroe. Leon County has only sent one and Madison County sent five for autopsy.
Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts said he has not had any discussions with commissioners on the topic, but prefers the idea of having autopsies performed locally.
“I believe the creation of a forensic center would be a positive step for Montgomery County,” Metts said. “It would not only reduce the cost of the procedure, we could possibly contract with other counties as is often the practice.”
Don Sowell, Sheriff of Grimes County was not aware of the situation with the Southwest Forensic Center when contacted this weekend. Grimes County sent twenty-three to Conroe this year. He leaves it up to his investigators and the District Attorney’s Office on whether to send a body to Conroe or Dallas. The outside counties pay $1600 per autopsy.
In addition the cost to Montgomery County for having to send bodies outside the county to the Dallas area would come with a large price tag. Not only having a funeral home transport the body there and back but if crime is involved the cost of sending detectives out of town . That drive time taking away from their regular case load. The vehicle expense, hotel if needed and meals for those detectives. In addition the cost of bringing a pathologist to Conroe if needed to testify.
Sam Houston State University has shown an interest in working with Montgomery County if and when the county builds and staffs one of their own.
The Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility also known as STAFS is a state-of-the-art research and training facility designed to advance academic and technical knowledge in the application of forensic science disciplines to crime scenes and criminal activities. The facililty’s predominant focus of study is the application of forensic sciences to the human body and the vast amount of evidence that can be gleaned from the careful recognition, collection, and preservation of that evidence. The facility is recognized by the Anatomical Board of Texas as a willed-body donor facility, and accepts human body donations for the purposes of scientific research.
The facility trains students, law enforcement officials, academicians and forensic specialists.
The facility is located within the Center for Biological Field Studies at Sam Houston State University, a 247 acre parcel of land adjacent to the Sam Houston National Forest. One acre of maximum security fencing surrounds the outdoor research facility with an additional eight acres of minimum security reserved for other types of forensic training such as search and recovery maneuvers. Contained within the outdoor facility are a variety of various environmental conditions, including a fluvial environment. Web cams are located within the outdoor facility to monitor timing of various post-mortem activities from on and off-campus computers.
The building is designed as a morgue with cooler and freezer units, modern morgue equipment and tools and digital radiograph and microscope capabilities.
For many years the State of Texas would assist counties of 500,000 or more financially if a morgue was to be built. Using the Census that will be out soon Montgomery County should meet that mark. But since then the state has raised that population figure to 1,000,000.