Originally created 11/30/02

Coroner confirms homicide



TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. - Tybee Island resident Joni O'Shaughnessy died within minutes of circulatory collapse after being suffocated, the Chatham County coroner ruled this week.

In a death certificate signed and dated Tuesday, Dr. James C. Metts said Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, 43, was "suffocated by another" at an unknown time Aug. 1 in her Miller Avenue home.

Her body was found partially submerged in the bathtub of the home she shared with her husband, Dr. Charles Owen O'Shaughnessy, 58.

There was evidence that a violent fight had occurred at the home, police said. Dr. O'Shaughnessy has said he had to leave his home at 3 a.m. the day of his wife's death because she had acted violently toward him.

He and an employee at his Tybee Island Medical Center found his wife dead at about 2:30 p.m. that day. They were trying to find a checkbook to pay bills at the practice, according to initial police reports.

The death certificate's findings matched comments Dr. Metts made in October about how he believed Mrs. O'Shaughnessy died.

Dr. O'Shaughnessy, whom Tybee police have continually referred to as a "person of interest," disputed Dr. Metts' early conclusions in a statement earlier this month to the press.

He theorized that his wife accidentally drowned as a result of the alcohol and drugs found in her system and her clumsiness. The physician also questioned Dr. Metts' objectivity in the case because the coroner had been friends with Mrs. O'Shaughnessy for many years.

Tybee police have made no arrests, and they did not comment on the status of the case, which the district attorney's office earlier confirmed is under review.