Originally created 09/19/00

Mix-up in destination delays autopsy



NORTH AUGUSTA - An autopsy is scheduled this morning for a 22-year-old Georgia man who died shortly after a drug raid by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

Theron Wade Thompkins Jr., 22, died Saturday in the intensive care unit at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, a day after he was part of a drug raid near North Augusta, Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said. Officials are investigating the possibility that Mr. Thompkins swallowed the drugs that officers were seeking.

During the raid, officers searched Mr. Thompkins, found nothing and released him, Mrs. Townsend said. Shortly after, he complained to officers of feeling ill, and an ambulance was called to take him to MCG, where he died.

Mr. Thompkins was from Albany, Ga., but had a current address listed at a motel in Augusta, the coroner said.

But police sent Mr. Thompkins' body to the wrong place, which caused a delay in the autopsy. The mix-up occurred when hospital officials and police were dealing with the body of Grovetown resident Gary Lee Cooper, who was shot and killed by a Columbia County sheriff's deputy Saturday.

"That happened at the same time," Mrs. Townsend said. "And so the doctors and nurses tell the law enforcement about the first death of the police shooting, and `Oh, by the way, since you're here, you've got this overdose case as well.' The police sent the bodies to the crime lab in Atlanta."

In Atlanta, officials realized the body of Mr. Thompkins belonged to South Carolina. The body was scheduled to be shipped back to Aiken County on Monday for the autopsy.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.