Anne Squared

Life filtered through the lens of an INTJ, Mom, and healthcare professional.

“What is Wrong with this Picture of the KC Chiefs”? Part 2″ (Or, Public Health is often a Puzzle)

RB Jones believes Belcher had CTE by JEFFREY FLANAGAN Jan  31-
Autopsy reports revealed that Belcher was legally drunk (0.17 blood-alcohol content) the Dec. 1 morning when he killed Perkins before driving to the Chiefs’ practice facility, where he shot himself in the head in the parking lot.
 But the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office, which performed the autopsy, did not send any of Belcher’s brain tissue to specialists to be examined for CTE, per the family’s wishes, according to Jackson County public information officer Dan Ferguson.

“In that situation, an autopsy is performed to determine cause of death,” Ferguson told “Anything at all dealing with organ or tissue donor is strictly up to the family. But no brain tissue was sent anywhere for examination.”

Mr. Belcher was intoxicated. There is speculation by teammates and the medical community (not included in this writing) that he may have been showing signs of CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. I had the opportunity today to read Mr. Belcher’s autopsy report. The report detailed a healthy young man with external injuries consistent with a career in football and a gunshot to the head. The only lab reports were the basic tox screen and blood alcohol levels. No internal examination of internal organs. No examination or inspection of the brain except to document the path of the bullet and document the findings relevant to the gunshot. Autopsy findings: “died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.” “The manner of death is suicide.” 

I also read his victim’s autopsy report. Perkins was 22 years old, the mother of his child. Her near lifeless body was found by Belcher’s mother. Ms Perkins was shot 9 times. Nine times from her neck, chest, mid-chest, abdomen, legs, back, hip, legs, hand. The report notes intensive efforts by first-responders to treat Perkins, but she was pronounced dead 7 minutes after arriving in the emergency room. If you have worked trauma, you know this likely means, she was dead before she arrived. (If you haven’t worked trauma, ignore that last sentence. My fingers must have hiccuped.) 

Her report is detailed. Every wound path is measured and documented, as it should be. Evidence collected. She is a crime victim and this is a critical step. Then comes the list of every internal organ and body system, and the description, following the necessary protocol for the autopsy. The brain is included. All pathology reports, lab reports and toxicology reports are negative. The results: “Cause of Death: multiple gunshots”   ” Manner: Homicide.”

A murder/suicide, brought into the spotlight because of the fame of one party. Murder – a crime. The autopsy was necessary to collect evidence. If we are comparing apples to apples, both young adults are dead because of the obvious injuries to their bodies – his head wound and her multiple gunshots. In my opinion, as a professional in public health someone left a stone or two uncovered.  Both homicides and suicides are reportable events to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). All mortality events are reported by a series of codes that tell the type of illness, event, and how it happened. That is how we researchers know that suicides and homicides in certain age groups are in “epidemic” proportions. 

The Jackson County public information officer, Mr. Ferguson, said they were complying with the family’s wishes regarding the disposition of his organs by not having his brain autopsied (to check for CTE.) I read and reread Mr. Ferguson’s words at least a dozen times, and it sure seemed to me that he was implying that the autopsy was done per law according to family wishes…though he does not say that. (I guess that is why I am not a public spokesperson for any politically sensitive office or situation.)  Because I see 2 dead people, at least one violent crime. I haven’t checked the epi report for epidemic stats on suicides in this age range or profession, in this area, but I did check the Missouri State code governing autopsies. The deceased, or in lieu of, family’s wishes MUST be followed in the State of Missouri – From there legislative code, Chapter 194,  Section 194.115   (August 28, 2012) except

194.115. 1. Except when ordered or directed by a public officer, court of record or agency authorized by law to order an autopsy or postmortem examination, it is unlawful for any licensed physician and surgeon to perform an autopsy or postmortem examination upon the remains of any person without the consent of one of the following…..

Rant: What part of this man was drunk but could drive, brutally killed a woman he knew while his mother was in the house, drove to the place he worked and conversed with people he knew, then committed suicide and had no other toxins in his blood, does not beg for someone to order an autopsy?

I do not follow sports. Maybe there has been a perfectly logical explanation presented to answer this question. I am not a lawyer. I can’t say anything illegal was done. Public health is often a puzzle that you piece together with lots of pieces of information over time. From a public health perspective, this is a puzzle. And the pieces to this puzzle are not fitting together.

Ideas anyone?


Here’s a timeline of 2 former NFL and 1 active player suicides within a nine months of Belcher’s suicide:

Ray Easterling was confirmed via autopsy as suffering from CTE.

Read more:

Categories: Public Health

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3 replies

  1. Certainly a sad loss of an opportunity to further explore the possibility of CTE. I suppose these autopsy laws vary from state to state, but as you point out, the circumstances around his death certainly seem like they would meet the criteria for an automatic autopsy.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Jenny. I am not sure if I am over reading your responses, so please correct me if I am. Due to the traumatized state (understandable) of the family, the NFL encouraged a quick resolution so the family could begin the healing process.

  3. Very interesting and insightful. I imagine the Belcher’s family was so traumatized they wanted to put the tragedy behind them quickly. The NFL might not want to examine the issues of CTE (for obvious reasons $$$$$$$$$$). Thanks for the research and questions you’ve raised.

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