Today, after years of running into stone walls, Walsh is convinced of two things: 1) that his mother was murdered and 2) that the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiners Office is effectively helping cover up the crime.
Of course, if murder had occurred, there should be a motive.
Coroners work closely with police departments when performing autopsies and take note of circumstances that shed light on a victims death. Such a factor in Catherine Elliotts death was that her husband, James, had been named sole beneficiary of Catherines $240,000 life insurance policy a few weeks before.
In September 1992, Walsh took his suspicions to a meeting with Wood. His evidence of foul play was point by point bluntly invalidated by the Medical Examiner and instead construed to support the previous findings of accidental death.
Walsh pointed out the slash across the top of his mothers nose, other large gouges on the tip of the nose, and numerous wounds to her upper lip. Wood refused to accept these wounds as evidence of foul play, stating that they could easily be explained as bug bites, inflicted after Elliotts death.
Experts, however, have disputed this. Dr. P. G. Koehler, research entomologist with the Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, examined photographic evidence of the wounds sustained by Catherine Elliott. They do not look like bug bites, he said.
Other experts concurred. Moreover, said Walsh, the Elliotts house had no roach problem.
Wood similarly dismissed the evidence of lividity on the back when the body was found lying face-down one of the most compelling indications of foul play.
According to Walsh, Wood was bent on discrediting every question Walsh raised, and ensuring the original findings remained intact.
Walsh alleges that because Joan Woods office failed to handle the autopsy professionally and has blocked efforts to probe bona fide evidence of criminality, the murderer has escaped justice.
Wood appears focused on keeping this case out of the media and guarding against any threat that the accident might turn out to be a murder. She failed to return calls from Freedom.
I want to go back to Hawaii. I loved being there. I loved my life there, said Walsh, who has spent roughly $10,000 through the years in legal fees and other expenses in efforts to uncover the truth about his mothers murder. But it would be like abandoning my mother if I left now.
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