The family of former Gov. Dixy Lee Ray is devastated by reports that unauthorized autopsy photographs were made of her body at the Pierce County medical examiner’s office.
“As you can imagine, it’s a horrible violation to our family. It’s unspeakable,” Ray’s niece, Karen Reid of Fox Island, told The Associated Press on Monday.
“It’s so denigrating to the family, I don’t know what to say. It’s like reliving her death all over again.”
County officials have said they found unauthorized photographs of corpses in the desk of an ex-worker who sued the county for discrimination after he was fired, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported.
Among the photographs were pictures of the corpses of Ray and Tacoma Mayor Jack Hyde.
The former employee, Eberhard Bruell, 56, was fired for insubordination in March 1995. He filed a claim against the county, contending he was discriminated against because of his age, sex and German nationality.
Bruell told The Seattle Times that the Polaroids weren’t his and were kept in a general office drawer near the autopsy room along with office supplies and bullet samples.
Reid said she doesn’t yet know all the details about how the photos came into existence, but she is still appalled that her aunt was afforded little dignity in death.
“She was an older lady. She was shy and sensitive about her body,” Reid said.
Ray, the state’s only woman governor, died in 1994 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 79.
Bruell’s claim against the county was settled for $140,000 in December, after Bruell produced photos of Medical Examiner Emmanuel Lacsina standing shirtless next to a stripper during a 1990 after-work party.
Bruell also told of a 1994 party where Lacsina and his top aide, Jane Weber, swapped sexual questions with subordinates while in a hot tub.
The allegations were made public May 19. Lacsina was fired last week.
County officials said they found unauthorized photos of corpses in Bruell’s desk after Bruell was fired and used them to persuade him to lower monetary demands in his claim, The News Tribune reported.
Bruell and his attorney, Paul Lindenmuth, had been demanding $500,000, county risk manager Mike Panagiotu said.
Lindenmuth said the photos played no role in the settlement decision.
Bruell said he took the photos for identification purposes only and that he did nothing wrong.
“Everybody who comes in there, we take pictures,” he said.
County officials say that if photos are necessary, they are taken with a high-quality camera, not the Polaroid camera Bruell used. And they say access to such photos normally is strictly controlled.
Greg Sandstrom, a deputy Kitsap County coroner, said that when he visited the Pierce County morgue, Bruell showed him photos of Ray and another woman that he kept in a drawer of his desk.
The photo of Ray showed her from the waist up, covered by a drape, Sandstrom said.
Bruell “was bragging he had the last picture of her,” Sandstrom said.
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