Way back in the late 1800s, when cremation was a hot issue in Europe, the UK, and in the USA, one of the major objections to cremation was the fact that once the body is incinerated, it is no longer available for further investigation. The major concern of the opponents was that crimes could be concealed if the body were no longer available for further medicolegal investigation. Those concerns are as valid today as they were then.
In the Joshua Abood and in the Riley Kern cases, the bodies were cremated; they are no longer available for continued medicolegal death investigation. This fact may be a speed bump but it does not deter from the egregious misconduct and deficiencies involved in their respective investigations.
A forensic autopsy is a series of tests and examinations performed on the body to determine the presence of an injury or to identify any disease that may have caused or contributed to the death. This internal and external examination is done by a forensic pathologist who has been specially trained to recognize patterns of injury, collect evidence and investigate the circumstances surrounding the death. The results of the death scene investigation, combined with the results of the autopsy, are used to determine the cause and manner of death. Specific autopsy protocols will be discussed in a later segment in this investigative series.
During a forensic autopsy, it is necessary to thoroughly examine the body as well as the internal organs. The incisions needed to weigh and measure the organs are made in a manner that allows the funeral director to conceal them for the viewing service and funeral. Additionally, special tests are performed to check for the presence infectious diseases, alcohol, and/or drugs. A typical forensic autopsy takes approximately 2-4 hours but may require additional time to complete these special tests. If these tests are needed, the death certificate will be issued with “PENDING” as the cause of death while the medicolegal death investigator obtains the test results. This allows the family to make arrangements for moving the body to the funeral home and to schedule the funeral/burial.
Yes, both Riley and Joshua were cremated. That, however, does not detract in any way whatsoever from the facts we are presenting. Yes, the investigation is a sham at this point. No, the autopsy was not conducted by a qualified pathologist. No, the Death Certificates were not properly or correctly completed by the Albany County Coroners. Yes, the families, friends, and the public at large are being cheated, misinformed by their elected officials, and deceived. These facts are clear evidence of fraud, misconduct, and incompetence. These facts are the basis for civil lawsuits, if not criminal prosecutions. There may no longer be any bodies to exhume and re-examine but the damning facts are undeniable.
Much of this accepted procedure is ignored in Albany County, by the Albany County Coroners, and by Ellis Hospital pathologist, Bernard T. Ng. We examine two recent cases to illustrate how Albany County and Ng are failing the public.
What becomes exquisitely clear is that there is little or no accountability in Albany County between the Albany County Coroners Office, Bernard Ng, Ellis Hospital, Albany Medical Center, NewYork State Police, Cohoes Police Department, Coeymans Police Department, Albany County Sheriff’s Department, Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares, or anyone else. It appears that they’re all in bed together. They have each other’s back. A recent article reports that 15 counties relied on Albany Medical Center for their medicolegal autopsies. Now that Albany Medical Center has backed off and Albany County, at least, is sending their cases to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady and to Bernard T. Ng, are we to assume that at least 15 counties are getting substandard medicolegal death investigations? It certainly looks that way.
Reviewing our archival material on the Riley Kern case and more recently the Joshua Abood case, in which the Albany County Coroners Office and pathologist Bernard T. Ng were involved, and comparing the information on the Death Certificates for the two young men, we find that both Death Certificates, one relating to alleged internal bleeding due to a motorcycle-pick-up truck collision, and the other due to alleged drowning, both list the “Immediate Cause of Death” to be “Cardiopulomonary Arrest,” or heart attack, an event where the heart stops. While they could argue that any death is caused by the fact that the heart stops, that is not a cause of death unless it’s a codable event of “sudden cardiac death” (SCD). The heart stops in all deaths, however, so “cardiopulmonary arrest,” is hardly an accurate determination of cause of death in either of these two different cases. But that’s how Albany County Coroners John Keegan (Riley’s case) and Antonio Sturges (Joshua’s case) called the shots. Ellis Hospital pathologist Bernart T. Ng, misrepresenting himself as a forensic pathologist makes the situation even worse.
As defined by the National Association of Medical Examiners, the cause of death is, “the underlying disease or injury responsible for setting in motion a series of physiologic events culminating in death.” The Albany County Coroners and Bernard T. Ng apparently have not learned that leading definition.
Another concern is that when death certificates are used for compiling health statistics such as in the data collected by the CDC, listing “cardiopulmonary arrest” and the immediate cause of death is totally irresponsible on the part of the coroners office and the so-called pathologist providing the information supporting that determination. The national death and health statistics lose their reliability and value when deaths and causes of death are incorrectly reported.
In Riley Kern’s death, Yes! his heart did stop breathing. In Joshua Abood’s death, his heart did stop beating. But neither was a heart attack! Riley succumbed to the effects of collision trauma, which caused internal bleeding; mishandling of his case by first responders and by Albany Medical Center ER staff, may have complicated his condition, and even aggravated it, possibly contributing to the young man’s death, but the cause of death is anything but “cardiopulmonary arrest.”
In Joshua Abood’s case, he was found face down in the Mohawk River, apparently a drowning incident but suspicious because it was associated with what is being called an “altercation” with two individuals with street drug connections. Joshua’s death has the elements of suspicious cause of death or even homicide, but investigators have tried to sweep the case under the carpet. Determining, however incompetently, the death to be caused by “cardiopulmonary arrest,” as Albany county Coroner Antonio Sturges has done, and given the substandard Autopsy Report signed by Bernard T. Ng, who violates every item in the Performance Standards for Forensic Autopsy of the National Association of Medical Examiners (a.k.a. NAME) is an embarrassment if not an outrage!
In both Riley Kern’s case and Joshua Abood’s case, the Albany County Coroners Office and Bernard T. Ng of Ellis Hospital are involved. In both Riley’s case and Joshua’s case, the coroners office calls the Immediate Cause of Death, “cardiopulmonary arrest,” or heart attack. Both causes of death are incorrect, even if we assume they were not suspicious or the result of an assault, and accidental (that is, the “Manner of Death”).
According to the CDC guidelines for medical examiners and coroners:
“The immediate cause [of death] does not mean the mechanism of death or terminal event (for example, cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest). The mechanism of death (for example, cardiac or respiratory arrest) should not be reported as the immediate cause of death as it is a statement not specifically related to the disease process, and it merely attests to the fact of death. The mechanism of death therefore provides no additional information on the cause of death.”
The Albany County Coroners do not know how to correctly fill out a death certificate!
We have obtained two recordings of a next-of-kin’s conversations with John Keegan (Magin & Keegan Funeral Home), an Albany County Coroner for at least 12 years at the time of Riley’s death and about 14 years at the time of Joshua’s death, and with Bernard T. Ng MD, a clinical/anatomic pathologist, not a forensic pathologist, on the staff of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady and the owner of Schenectady Pathology Associates P.C., in Schenectady. The contents of those recordings is nothing less that shocking.
The Bernard T. Ng’s Statements
We first reviewed the more than 35 minutes of recorded conversation of the mother of a victim who asked the question, whether Ng received or reviewed the victim’s medical records at the time of doing the autopsy. Ng never answers the question but dances around talking about everything else.
We gather from the content of the recording that Ng never reviewed the victim’s medical records prior to the autopsy, and conveniently leaves out important injuries that could not have gone unnoticed at autopsy, injuries that the Standards require be documented, but were not. Was Ng covering for his cronies at Albany Medical Center, where the young man died.
It is clearly established by every organization that represents the specialty of pathology or the specialty of forensic pathology that the goal of the forensic autopsy is to determine the cause of death, which is defined as “”. But Ng has his own definition: “Ultimately the findings of the autopsy for the determination of the cause of death is to determine whether or not the injuries were consistent with the accident [the victim] was in.” What this appears to mean is that Ng’s autopsy findings are aimed at confirming what the coroner or the police think should be cause of death; he is not doing autopsies objectively and competently (or honestly). But then Ng is not a forensic pathologist; that becomes obvious when he’s asked about x-rays, and responds:
The victim’s mother askes NG if he saw any of the incriminating x-rays. Ng responds:
I am not a radiologist and the x-ray images that I tend to deal with are mostly skeletal, penetrating injury…I’m not self confident…my responsibility is to correlate the type of injury with the event that caused them. The death was likely due to the sequence of this damage to the body.
I don’t think I would be the best person to review those x-rays; I think you should find another radiologist … I don’t think it would ultimately change the cause of death of your son.
No, I usually don’t get those because of the fact that I’m not a radiologist…the I saw in the physical examination of the body…I wouldn’t really be the right person to review these trauma x-rays they tend to have a lot of tubes and lines that are not necessarily there any more at time of the autopsy, a gown that … It’s hard for me to determine…I normally don’t look at these clinical x-rays, unless there’s a foreign object I’m looking for…I don’t have the training to look at those lines and to comment that they are not there in the right place.
Riley’s mother asks Ng if he took any pictures at the time of the autopsy. Ng says he’s going to look, and asks her to hold. At this point the recording continues for about 5 minutes and then goes dead. If Ng, as John Keegan states, usually takes autopsy photos, wouldn’t Ng know whether he did or did not? After all this wasn’t the first time Riley’s mother called about her son’s autopsy.
BTW, Riley’s mom is a nurse and apparently knows more about the procedures done on her son than Bernard Ng, or more than Ng cares to admit.
But even an AMC anesthesiologist on the case stated that they would never remove the tubes from the body, and John Keegan himself states that the tubes would or should be there at autopsy. But Bernard Ng neither notices the gaping hole in the young man’s neck, nor does he notice the holes in his chest, and he doesn’t see any trauma in his chest due to the clumsy manipulation of a chest tube by an inexperienced resident for over an hour!
Furthermore, radiologic evidence is a key tool for the qualified forensic pathologist but Bernard T. Ng, doesn’t feel that he should use or is qualified to use x-rays or radiological imaging in his autopsy work. A properly trained, qualified, board-certified forensic pathologist would never make such a statement.
Bernard T. Ng MD claims to have been doing medicolegal autopsies for about 20 years. We cannot even begin to think of the damage he’s done, and the number of inaccurately and incorrectly certified deaths in the counties using him for autopsy services. It’s criminal.
The John Keegan, Albany County Coroner Statements
John Keegan is a funeral director and is associated with the Magin & Keegan Funeral Home in Albany, New York. He has been an Albany County Coroner for more than 12 years but he doesn’t seem to grasp the seriousness and the scope of the coroner’s job.
Our first observation after reviewing the Death Certificates is that the Albany County Coroners don’t have a clue how to correctly certify a death or fill out a Death Certificate.
Every death results from cardiopulmonary arrest, the heart stops beating the person stops breathing but that’s not a death certificate cause of death. We discuss that above.
John Keegan is a nice enough guy; he has the cool manners of an undertaker, after all he is a funeral director. But when challenged, he gets really defensive, as we observed in the recorded conversation we reviewed. We think he should stick to the funeral business, and leave death investigation to someone with some appropriate credentials.
In recent years, medical examiners offices and coroners offices have attempted to take the edge of their authority to order autopsies, and the medical examiners and forensic pathologists, the qualified ones, that is, have been attempting to work with families when it becomes necessary to retain organs after autopsy, even when the body is returned to the family for final disposition. They give the family a call and advise them about what must be done, and may even sympathetically apologize for what the law requires. But not in Albany County.
When Riley’s mother questioned the fact that the family was not notified or consulted before Riley’s body was sent to Ellis Hospital to be autopsied by Bernard Ng, we were a bit surprised by Keegan’s response:
EKern: Nobody asked the family.
JKeegan: Nobody asked the family what… it’s the law that I order an autopsy, esp. in a motor vehicle accident.
When asked if the autopsy report is used to determine the cause of death, Keegan answers:
EKern: Isn’t it [the autopsy report] used to determine the cause of death?
JKeegan: The autopsy report…certainly!
And when asked about whether the pathologist would be provided with Riley’s medical records, Keegan reponds:
JKeegan: Well the pathologist gets every medical record from the hospital that is available, he reviews the medical record, and then proceeds to do an autopsy, with everything that he reads, sees, observes and that he finds in the procedures he does in the autopsy, the end result is he determines the cause of death or major factor that caused the death of the individual. I’m not a doctor, I’m an elected official who decides whether an autopsy is required or by law legally ordered, and that is what actually what I did. The doctor finds in his findings is exactly that, not whether the hospitals he finds the exact cause of death…
EKern: Removal of the central line leaves a fairly large hole but I’m surprised it wasn’t reported…
JKeegan: I’m assuming that if it had anything to do with his cause of death, it would have been documented. Again, I don’t want to answer for the pathologist, I don’t want to answer for the hospital … that’s not my job nor my expertise nor something that I can respond to because I don’t have anything to do with that.
When Riley’s mom asks about the fact that the tubes were apparently removed from Riley’s body before it was transported for autopsy, Keegan responds — this is the second time in the conversation where Keegan gets touchy, defensive:
EKern: I’m becoming suspicious…The anesthesiologist there [at AMC] said that’s the number one thing: you do not touch those lines. And when I asked [Bernard Ng] about the autopsy report, he said they were not there…so …
JKeegan: Well the autopsy report [sic] is not supposed to remove any lines. Well, we don’t remove … the responsible is the motorcycle accident. If you want to go further with that …
EKern: I’d want people to be more sympathetic …
JKeegan: You’re trying to accuse the Coroners Office of removing lines? I don’t want you to take it the wrong way. I ordered an autopsy…what the hospital did, I have no jurisdiction over them.
The Standards require that the medicolegal investigators cooperate and collaborate in parallel, that each agency conducts their work without interference from any other agency, that they all work together, and presumably talk to each other. That doesn’t seem to be happening in Albany County death investigations. It’s having a very bad effect on confidence in law enforcement, death investigations, and in justice overall. Corrective action is overdue.
Time Interval Between Actual Death and Discovery of the Body
One glaring omission we found in Bernard Ng’s so called medicolegal autopsies — at best a misrepresentation or even fraud — is the conspicuous lack of a statement relating to establishing a time of death.
In Riley Kern’s case, there was no real need to do this, since Riley was pronounced dead in a hospital setting following clinical procedures, which for one or another reason failed.
In Joshua Abood’s case, the timeframe between the time he was last seen alive, the interval between that and the event leading to his death, and the time between his death and the discovery of his body seem to have been overlooked. The National Association of Medical Examiners and other leading authorities clearly state in their Standards, that the post-mortem signs should be used for determining a time of death.
We’d like you to understand what we are talking about. You see, once a person dies, the body begins the process of decomposition, literally it breaks down. This process can be described by four basic changes that can be observed externally: post-mortem signs. There are 4 main postmortem signs, which occur in this order: (1) pallor mortis the paleness associated with a dead body; (2) algor mortis, the cooling of a dead body; (3) rigor mortis, the initial stiffening of the dead body; (4) livor mortis, the pooling of blood in the dead body. These signs occur in the first 24 hours after death occurs.
Postmortem Death Signs
Pallor mortis is the first sign and occurs due to the absence of blood flow to the skin and surface vessels. Algor mortis is the second sign, and is also due to the shutdown of the body’s metabolic processes and the absence of blood flow. This results in the change in the body’s core temperature, and depends on environmental factors that should be taken into consideration at scene investigation; the body assumes environmental temperature. Rigor mortis is the 3rd sign, where muscles contract or stiffen due to the release of chemicals affecting the muscles. Livor mortis is the pooling of blood in the lowermost parts of the body in telltale patterns. Two other events occur in addition to these signs. The first is primary flaccidity or the condition following death when the body goes limp (all the muscles relax); in this stage there the urinary and anal sphicters may relax. Once tissue decomposition has reached a certain stage, a second phase of relaxation called secondary flaccidity occurs. This whole cycle can take about 24 hours, and is used by forensic experts to determine time of death and other information relating to the deceased.
Bernard T. Ng is what is called a clinical/anatomical pathologist but is not a qualified forensic pathologist; he does not have the necessary training or certification, and should not be doing forensic or medicolegal autopsies in connection with coroner’s or law-enforcement death investigations. If, as he states, he’s been doing this for 20 years, it is tantamount to professional malpractice, or even criminal fraud.
When a body is discovered, and following initial scene investigation and on site examination of the body, the deceased is usually subjected to the forensic autopsy. This is where the specially trained forensic pathologist enters the picture. His role is basically to answer four questions: (1) Who is this? (2) When did you die? (3) Where did you die? (4) How did you die? (5) Why did you die? and if there is suspicion of homicide, (6) Who did it? This dialogue between the forensic pathologist and the corpse will determine what type of autopsy is required, external or internal examination or both, and then to carry out the autopsy and determine the answers to the “death dialogue” questions, which only the deceased and the scene investigation can answer.
Forensic Pathologist vs. Coroner
The medical examiner/coroner investigates deaths that are unexpected, unexplained, or if an injury or poisoning was involved. State laws provide guidelines for when a medical examiner/coroner must be notified. The medical examiner or coroner will either complete the cause-of-death section of the death certificate or waive that responsibility. If the medical examiner/coroner does not accept the case, then the certifying medical professional will need to complete the cause-of-death section. In Albany County, the county coroner will usually certify the death on the death certificate.
The Forensic Pathologist is specially trained to determine the cause and manner of death. And she can be hired to perform private autopsies, medicolegal, or forensic autopsies, and to be an expert witness and testify in court. The Coroner is a lay person elected or appointed to oversee the operation of the coroner’s office and to investigate deaths. In general, coroners have little or no medical or forensics training. Coroner’s rely on law-enforcement to do the overall investigation of the incident and forensic Pathologists to perform autopsies.
As we’ve clearly shown in the case of John Keegan and Antonio Sturges, and in the professional literature on the subject, most jurisdictions have recognized that coroners are generally ignorant and can cause more problems than they solve; they can be serious speed bumps in any death investigation. That is one reason why so many jurisdictions, that is, counties and states, have upgraded their death investigation offices to the Office of the Medical Examiner (ME), a physician licensed to practice medicine, and frequently specializing in forensic pathology.
You don’t have to look far for any of the above. Albany County is the place to go to find it. Try Albany Medical Center (AMC), Ellis Hospital and Schenectady Pathology Associates for professional misconduct.
Investigation and Documentation of Death
There is general confusion among coroners and even among some pathologists as to when the terms “cause of death” and “mechanism of death” or “manner of death,” and even a superficial review of death certificates will prove this point.
The cause of death or “immediate cause of death” is the specific injury or disease that leads to death. Cause of death” refers to the physical factors that caused the body to stop functioning and answers the question, “Why did you die?” “Why did you die?” might also include the “mechanism” of death, which is the specific physiological disturbances that actually led to death or the cessation of life. For example, a heart attack death could die from a fatal irregular rhythm in the heart such as ventricular fibrillation, for example, or from severe damage to the heart muscle, leading to shock. Here the cause of death is a cardiac arrest, but the mechanism is a cardiac arrhythmia or cardiogenic shock, respectively.
The “manner of death” means how the cause of death actually occurred, that is, what circumstances led to the cause of the death event. “How did you die?” In general, there are five manners of death: natural, accidental, suicide, homicide (which technically would include suicide), and undetermined. A gunshot wound (the cause of death), may have been accidental, suicidal, or homicidal, for example. Only deaths from old age or naturally-occurring disease can be considered natural.
The Albany County Coroners have shown themselves to be incompetent political fixtures, and Bernard T. Ng MD is incompetent and inconsistent, and is not qualified to perform medicolegal or forensic autopsies. Albany County and any other county operating under the authority of a coroners office or even a medical examiner, and there are allegedly 15 such counties, who base their coroner’s death certifications and their law-enforcement death investigations on the findings of a coroner or the results of autopsies performed by Bernard T. Ng, must be held accountable for their ignorance and indifference, and for the serious damage they are doing to the public interest and to public health overall.
It’s time to hold the County Executive, Daniel McCoy (Dem), the Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares (Dem), the Albany County Legislature, the Albany County Office of the Coroner, Bernard T. Ng, Ellis Hospital, and Albany Medical Center ACCOUNTABLE and ANSWERABLE to the public. It’s time the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the Abany City Police, Cohoes Police, the New York State Parks Police, the Coeymans Police Department, and all of the 15 counties using Bernart T. Ng as their medicolgal death investigation pathologist, are ACCOUNTABLE and ANSWERABLE for cheating the public and the families of the deceased!
As for Bernard T. Ng, Ellis Hospital, Albany Medical Center, it is our intention to file formal complaints together with the families of Riley Kern and Joshua Abood, with the the New York State Department of Health, The American Board of Pathology, the New York State Department of Education, Division of Professional Misconduct Enforcement, and the National Association of Medical Examiners, demanding investigation and disciplinary action. The same formal complaint and demands will be filed with the New York State Department of Health against the funeral directors acting in their capacity as Albany County Coroners. Furthermore, we will demand that the Office of the State Attorney General investigate the Office of the Albany County Executive, the Office of the Albany County District Attorney, New York State Police Criminal Investigators, Troop G, Latham, NY, and other agencies for their abuse of public office in obstructing justice. We will further join with families of deceased who come under the jurisdiction of the Albany County Coroners to demand a thorough investigation of all deaths certified by the Albany County Coroners and the certification of Immediate Cause of Death, autopsies done by Bernard T. Ng MD upon request of the Albany county Coroners, and a thorough review of the investigation and certification procedures of the Albany County Coroners Office.
The **it’s hit the fan, dudes!
Our next Segment will discuss the Autopsies, the Autopsy Reports, and the Albany County Coroners’ Death Certifications.
 See: Payne-James, Jason, and Roger W. Byard. Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Elsevier, (2016). Print.
 Medical Examiners’ and Coroners’ Handbook on Death Registration and Fetal Death Reporting. Hyattsville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2003. Print.
We are back to the Joshua Abood case, and will provide more specifics and detail on the investigation and the weirdos investigating and making decisions in the case. Stay tuned for the upcoming segment that will deal with New York State Police Investigator Thomas Burns, Albany County Coroner Antonio Sturges and the Albany County Legislature and the Albany County Coroners Office, Ellis Hospital (Schenectady) pathologist Bernard Ng, and New York State Assemblyman John T. McDonald III.
Some Related Smalbany Articles
Politics, Power, Patronage and Conflicts of Interest: The Albany County Coroners Office
A Response to Lorin Marra. re: Office of the Albany County Coroners
The Cover-up Continues… A Mother’s Despair
Riley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective
You can’t make this sh*t up!
This is the Twilight Zone!
( NYS Assemblyman John T. McDonald III )
ALBANY COUNTY, NEW YORK.