Autopsy Uproar Not M.E.'s First
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER AND MARC CAPUTO
Feb. 21, 2006
A medical examiner involved in a boot camp death autopsy allowed his
license to lapse and once signed a mistake-prone autopsy saying a woman
had male genitalia.
Dr. Charles Siebert, who released a controversial autopsy in a teen's
boot camp-related death, has been without a medical license for three
weeks and recently issued two botched autopsy reports -- one of which
listed a mother as having ''unremarkable'' testicles.
Siebert's medical license lapsed Jan. 31, and he's ''in violation''
of state law if he practiced medicine after that date, said a state
health department spokeswoman, who was unable to elaborate on Siebert's
case due to the Presidents' Day holiday.
Siebert appears to have worked ever since 14-year-old Martin Lee
Anderson was kneed, choked and wrestled down by seven Panama City boot
camp guards Jan. 6. Cause of death: sickle-cell trait, according to an
autopsy report released last week by Siebert, who couldn't be reached
for comment Monday.
That report, roundly panned by experts on the rare blood disorder
that mostly affects blacks, outraged Martin's family members.
But it didn't shock Frances Terry, 57, as she watched the video of
Martin's boot-camp altercation unfold on her television set in the small
community of Blountstown.
`HE MESSED UP'
''He's a bad doctor. He messed up my daughter's autopsy and my
husband's autopsy and I'll bet he messed up the autopsy of that poor
boy,'' Terry said Wednesday as she sat next to Martin's mother in the
offices of attorney Benjamin Crump.
``He said my daughter had testicles. She didn't. I washed her from
the day she was born and, trust me, she didn't have testicles. He said
my husband had no scars. He did. He had a seven-inch scar on his back
that even a blind person could see.''
Some experts said Monday such errors are fireable offenses.
Terry's husband and daughter were killed by a massive tornado spun
off by Hurricane Ivan on Sept. 15, 2004.
Terry said her daughter, Donna Reed, was 34 and had a child long
before having her ovaries and uterus removed in major surgery to stop
the pain from endometriosis, an organ ailment. Terry said her daughter's
gallbladder and appendix were also removed in other surgeries.
Yet the autopsy signed by Siebert on Nov. 29, 2004, notes Donna
Reed's three tattoos in depth as well as her ''smooth tan'' appendix,
the gallbladder that's ''not distended,'' the ''uterus is not
enlarged,'' and that the ``ovaries and fallopian tubes are
But it was this sentence that really dealt a blow to Frances Terry:
``The prostate gland and testes are unremarkable.''
Also, her 55-year-old husband, James Terry, had a seven-inch scar
running along his spine and a nearby four-inch scar. Terry, a truck
driver, had back surgery after a load of roof trusses fell on him. But
his autopsy, signed by Siebert, said Terry had no scars.
Frances Terry complained about her daughter's autopsy to Steve
Meadows, the Panama City-based prosecutor of the six-county 14th
Judicial Circuit where Siebert practices.
On Monday, Meadows, through deputy chief Joe Grammer, acknowledged
the meeting and blamed the incident on ''transcription errors.'' Grammer
said Siebert corrected the errors in a revised report.
CONFIDENCE IN SIEBERT
Grammer said he couldn't confirm the specifics of the allegations
Terry made, but ''it probably can be confirmed the woman didn't have
testicles.'' He said it was a ''fair statement'' to say that,
''transcription errors'' aside, the prosecutor's office has confidence
in Siebert's work.
But Dr. Joseph Davis, retired medical examiner in Miami-Dade, said
the questions aren't easy to dismiss. He said that although errors
happen, even boilerplate mistakes in an autopsy report render the entire
In the past, he said, some pathologists used ''machines'' or
templates that allowed the examiner to simply fill in the blanks. ''I
would not permit that in my office,'' he said. ``If it's true that he
was coming forth with a female who had male gonads, that's not good.''
Broward County's former medical examiner was also surprised by the
extent of the errors.
''It happens, but not very often,'' Dr. Ron Wright said. ``A few
people do that sort of thing. They usually find different work.''
`I FIRED A GUY'
He added: ``I fired a guy over this. I fired more than one . . .
Obviously, it looks really bad.''
The attorney for Martin's family, Crump, is not only questioning
Siebert's skills and integrity. He's concerned with Kristin Schmidt, the
nurse who stood by and rendered almost no aid as guards grappled and hit
Martin for more than 20 minutes.
One mother of a boot camp detainee who witnessed the incident plans
to address the news media today to describe how she feared for her son.
Shauna Manning told The Miami Herald that Schmidt refused to believe her
when she said her son couldn't perform all the camp's required exercises
because he has asthma.
Manning said Schmidt told her: ''I don't believe you. He's just
trying to get sympathy and get out of the program. That's what these
kids do. They use medical issues to try to get out of the program.''
Schmidt couldn't be reached for comment Monday, and has refused comment
in the past.
After Martin's death, Manning's son was transferred to a different
facility to finish his sentence for burglary.
Martin's mother, Gina Jones, said her child was ''murdered'' for
stealing his grandmother's car. She said Siebert's autopsy of her son
was part of a ``coverup.''
''My baby died from kicks, punches, chokes, you name it,'' she said.
``My baby's nose was swollen; it was broken. My baby's bottom lip was
cut, the face was scraped . . . He said no bruises? He said sickle-cell
trait? That's a lie.''
Though Martin's autopsy was performed Jan. 6, the day the teen died,
the four-page report was not signed by Siebert until Feb. 16, two weeks
after his license became ''delinquent,'' according to state Department
of Health records. Health department spokeswoman Thometta Cozart
confirmed the license had lapsed and said that ``he is not to practice
medicine in Florida.''
Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah, director of cardiology at Holy Cross
Hospital in Fort Lauderdale who served on Florida's Board of Medicine
for eight years, said a doctor ``cannot practice medicine as soon as he
finds out his license is delinquent; he has to cease and desist until he
renews his license.''
While the possible punishments for practicing medicine with a lapsed
license can vary, Zacharia said one thing is clear: ``That is grounds
Frances Terry said she has a few punishments in mind: ``He should
lose his license, and never do something like this again. He should be
slapped on both sides of his face for all he's done.''