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Medical examiner firm in Scott 'suicide' conclusion

November 17, 2009 3:36:26 PM PST
The Cook County medical examiner's office says it stands its conclusion that Chicago School Board President Michael Scott took his own life this week. That announcement comes as the Chicago Police Department says it will continue to investigate Scott's death.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Chicago Police complete press conference

Michael Scott's body was recovered from the banks of the Chicago River early Monday.

The people who knew Michael Scott best all say they find it completely inconceivable that he would take his own life. They are stunned by his loss and also by the swiftness of the medical examiner's ruling that his death was a suicide, particularly in light of the fact that the police department is continuing what it calls "a death investigation."

The medical examiner's office typically determines a cause of death based on the best available evidence, much of it physical. In this case, the medical examiner said Tuesday that the evidence pointing to suicide was compelling.

It was the veteran chief medical examiner who concluded Scott took his own life, and two Chicago police detectives agreed with that finding.

In cases where there are questions, pathologists examine a variety of things, key among them the characteristics of the wound

"Homicidal wounds are usually longer distance wounds and leave different marks on the skin and in the entry and exit of the bullet," said Dr. Daniel Del Boccio, pathologist, Resurrection Medical Center.

The medical examiner's office says Scott died from a contact wound more typical in a suicide. The wound was on the left side of his head. Scott was left-handed.

"This was a hard,contact-range gunshot wound to the head, which means that the gun was held against the head and actually pressed against the head, which is something that we suicides," said Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Lynne Jones.

Boccio told ABC7 Chicago he worked in the medical examiner's office with Jones years ago.

"[She is a] fine forensic pathologist. She is very even-handed. I worked with her side-by-side for over a year. She does not rush into judgments," he said.

Tuesday afternoon, the medical examiner said the evidence pointing to suicide in the Scott case was compelling and there was no need to postpone the announcement of that decision. The medical examiner also said the office treated it like any other investigation they handled.

"No one has ever, at any point in time up until now, approached the medical examiner, myself or the deputy chief, to say there is a problem with our ruling," said Jones.

The Chicago police department is not saying it is disputing the medical examiner's findings. There were two detectives present at the autopsy, but the police department's intent is to investigate every avenue and possibility and the last contact Scott made, as well as whether video surveillance might reveal anything of interest.

It is possible a contact bullet wound could have been administered by someone else, but there were no defensive wounds or other physical evidence to support that theory.

The police investigation goes on.


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