Georgia authorities say they’re awaiting results from a Tennessee forensic anthropologist in a case against an Augusta mother and daughter accused of concealing the death of a handicapped family member long enough for his body to become mummified.
“It’s rare that we do this,” John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said of the decision to send the body elsewhere. “This is a very, very unusual situation that doesn’t come up very often.”
On Oct. 12 Richmond County investigators found the body of Robin Adams Jr., who family members said had been physically and mentally disabled since birth.
He was found in a roach-infested residence on James Drive where he lived with his mother and sister.
The Richmond County Coroner’s Office said Adams could have died as long ago as February.
His mother, Angela Mercer, 43, and his sister, Deaidra Motley, 18, remain jailed on charges of concealing the death.
Motley told investigators she did not report the death for fear of getting in trouble. She also continued to receive and cash his supplemental security income checks to avoid drawing attention to his unreported death. District Attorney Ashley Wright said the crime is punishable by one to 10 years with no mandatory period of incarceration.
The condition of the body and the difficulty in examining it has prolonged the case.
After an autopsy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta, the body was sent to the GBI’s Atlanta Crime Lab and then to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where a forensic anthropologist is doing a microscopic examination of the bones.
“Under the unusual circumstances, we felt it was important to the investigation to have (a forensic anthropologist) examine it to make certain determinations,” Bankhead said.
The state no longer has a forensic anthropologist on staff because of budget cuts and rarity of use, authorities said.
Typically these specialists assist in determining age, sex and other factors in cases involving skeletal remains. Adams’ case is more unusual.
According to University of Tennessee spokeswoman Whitney Heins, the anthropology department averages about 50 law enforcement and medical examiner consultations per year, but the number has diminished in recent years.
Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten said mummified remains are rare.
“This is only the third one I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing it for 30 years,” he said. “It’s not exactly a common occurrence.”
Tuten said in the past 10 years he handled a case where a woman was mummified after dying in her bathtub and being left untouched for a long period of time.
In her case, however, an autopsy and examination were not necessary due to her extensive medical history.
The Adams case is different, he said.
“When death occurs, if the humidity is just right and the temperature is just right then mummification is not hard to come by,” Tuten said. “It takes a whole combination to be just right for it to occur.”