Coroner’s jury visits three deaths

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Mercer County Coroner Ron McNall called a coroner’s inquest on Thursday, July 22, 2010. A six person coroner’s jury heard evidence on two automobile accidents and a case of a five-month-old baby who died.

Daniel D. McLaughlin

Officer Steve Iconogle, Illinois State trooper, testified he was directed to the scene of an accident at 1664 300th Ave., near Sherrard on May 29, 2010 at 6 a.m. The accident was reported at 2:25 a.m. He observed the accident scene and saw where the vehicle left the roadway, hit an embankment and flipped onto the roof of the vehicle. He testified the window was down on the driver’s side and the driver did not have his seatbelt on. He observed both the accident scene and went to Brad’s Collision to view the vehicle.

An autopsy performed in Peoria showed there was severe injury to the cranium and left arm. A blood alcohol level of .263 was found, as well as a little cocaine.

One juror asked about the legal limits for alcohol.

The officer said .when the blood alcohol limit was more than 08 it became illegal to drive. He also explained that the finding of cocaine in the blood could have been from another source, such as an anti-anxiety medication that could have been taken up to 60 days prior. McLaughlin was 26 and a half years old.

Another juror asked what factors are involved in measuring the blood alcohol level.

The officer pointed to the size of the individual, type of alcohol consumed and the length of time the alcohol was consumed.

A family member from the audience reported that McLaughlin had just finished a 13-hour shift and asked what time the actual call came in to the Mercer County Sheriff’s department.

Officer Iconogle said the call came in at 1:59 a.m.

Another family member said she had just received a breakdown of cell phone calls made by McLaughlin, with the last call made at 1:31 a.m.

At 2:25 a.m. the coroner was called in by the Sheriff’s department.

After deliberation the coroner’s jury, with a unanimous vote, determined the cause of death was accidental.

Gage M. Feik

William G. Glancey, special investigator for the Mercer County Sheriff’s department, testified about what he discovered during his investigation of the death of Gage M. Feik. The call came in at 11:54 a.m. on April 24, 2010 from the mother of the five-month-old son, Stephanie Ethridge.

Officer Brian Evans responded to the call at the home in Alexis. The state police were called to process the scene, after the death was determined. Investigator Glancey said the mother was the only adult in the home. There were two other children at the residence - a two year old and a three year old.

He said the mother told him she had put the baby to bed upstairs at 9 p.m. the previous evening. At around 6 a.m. she heard him fussing and went upstairs with a bottle. He was sleeping in a “Pack N Play.”

She tried feeding him, but he didn’t eat well. Several hours later she went up to check on him and he was unresponsive. His right shoulder and head were covered with a blanket. She called 911 and he was transported to the Mercer County Hospital.

Investigator Glancey, as well as Coroner McNall, attended the autopsy on April 26 in Peoria, performed by Dr. John Ralston.

According to the forensics, there was no apparent cause of death. There was no outward signs of death and the toxicology analysis came back with nothing.

One jury member asked about possible suffocation.

There was no sign of petechiae, according to Glancey.

Coroner McNall said the death was ruled as SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in the autopsy.

McNall said the baby was current on his shots, was not sick at the time. The baby was born Nov. 18, 2009. The jury ruled unanimously that the cause of death was SIDS.

Michael W. McIntyre

Mercer County deputy Shawn Butler testified on Michael W. McIntyre’s accident, which happened just before 8 a.m. on April 29, 2010. The accident happened about one-quarter mile west of 140th St., off of US Route 17 and involved a head-on collision with a semi truck.

Butler, a crash reconstructionist was called to the scene and interviewed drivers and witnesses, besides measuring the scene. He said he concluded that McIntyre was coming home from Muscatine where he worked third shift. There was no evidence that he was deliberately driving in the opposite lane. McIntyre was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

There was no evidence of text messaging, of talking on his cell phone. “Based on sheer lack of evidence, he was probably unconscious or asleep,” said Officer Butler, who said he was directed to the corner of where the accident took place, about a quarter mile west of the Millersburg corner.

The Aledo fire deparment was called to extract the body.

Fluid samples that were taken at the scene and sent to the state lab were never received, according to the coroner.

“There was no reason to think he was on drugs or alcohol,” said McNall. He had extreme trauma to the head, the coroner added.

The coroner’s jury ruled the cause of death as accidental, unanimously.