Tuesday, April 03, 2001

County looks at better morgue security

Fallout from case involving corpse photos

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Digital cameras, a computerized keyless entry system and a new burglar alarm are among $300,000 in security upgrades recommended for the Hamilton County Coroner's Office. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department's recommendations follow its investigation into security after a photographer allegedly gained unauthorized access and took pictures of 12 corpses inside the morgue.

        Sheriff's department officials and Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Carl Parrott made their presentation Monday to Hamilton County commissioners.

        The photographer, Thomas Condon, is accused of gross abuse of a corpse for allegedly taking the photographs of corpses in various stages of autopsy. Dr. Jonathan Tobias, a morgue pathologist, has also been charged because authorities believe he gave Mr. Condon access.

        Dr. Parrott said Monday the new security measures won't be a cure-all. But it would help stop some unauthorized access and would insure authorities detect similar incidents more quickly.

        “We've been jolted into the realization that incidents like this can happen,” Dr. Parrott said. “Would this system have prevented the past occurrence? A qualified yes. It would have at least

        provided earlier warning.”

        Dr. Parrott said Mr. Condon never signed a log-in sheet at the office — the only record of people who come and go at the facility.

        With the enhanced security, not only would security cameras record people's movements, but keyless entry systems would record people who open doors to restricted areas.

        Major Dale Menkhaus, division commander for the sheriff's office, said the keyless entry system can be programmed to allow individual access to restricted areas only during certain times of day.

        Hamilton County Commissioner Tom Neyer said that's an important feature.

        “To the extent that an inside person wants to compromise security, this system won't necessarily stop that. But it will record them and make them more discoverable.”

        Dr. Parrott said the facility is to have new telephone and computer systems installed later this year. It would save money to install a new security system at the same time, he said.

        Commissioners are not expected to act on the recommendations for at least a month.

        In addition to the criminal charges against Mr. Condon and Dr. Tobias, the families of those photographed have filed a lawsuit against the county.

        Louis Gilligan, a lawyer hired by the county, told commissioners that he has filed a request to dismiss the lawsuit.


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