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Family Has To Wait 'At Least' A Month For Toddler's Body Due To Coroner's Backlog

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If at all possible, it would be best to avoid dying in Los Angeles County for the foreseeable future, especially if you'll need an autopsy.

A major backlog at the Coroner's Office has left many grieving families waiting for answers, and the bodies of their loved ones. Those families include Jon and Jamie Matthews, whose 18-month-old son George tragically drowned last week in Westlake Village. The Matthews were told they will have to wait "at least another month" before George's body will be released, according to CBS Los Angeles. The station reports that Sheriff's investigators have completed their investigation and determined George's death to be "a terrible accident," but the case can't officially be closed until the coroner completes an autopsy.

The Daily News reports that as of March 11 there were 180 bodies waiting to be processed at the morgue, with a six-month wait for toxiciology reports.

"It's nuts," the recently-resigned Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Mark Fajardo told the Daily News. Fajardo attributes the turmoil to budget cuts.

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The backlog has rendered the Coroner unable to rule on many cases—a delay that ripples across the county as "police can’t close a case, judges can’t hear them and family members can’t collect insurance money, and most importantly, loved ones can’t get closure," according to another CBS Los Angeles report.

Ty Pleasant, a family services counselor at Angelus Funeral Home in South Los Angeles, told LAist that he couldn't remember a similar backlog in his 19 years in the Los Angeles funeral business.

The Los Angeles County Coroner's office is among the busiest in the nation, handling about 8,500 physical examinations a year as part of more than 20,000 investigations, according to the AP. It is also the only coroner's office in the nation with an official gift shop.