Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk on Wednesday confirmed that “state agents” and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics are conducting an investigation into the county coroner’s office.
On Monday, Faulk said, state and MBN agents executed at least two search warrants for the Hancock County Coroner’s Office — one at his home office and one at the county coroner’s office.
Faulk said at least four vehicles with multiple state and MBN agents made a surprise visit to his Bay St. Louis home, where he often works. Agents also produced a search warrant for the county office, which is also located in Bay St. Louis, Faulk said.
“They took everything they wanted,” Faulk said. “They ransacked everything, even pulled up some of the floor boards and searched the attic.”
Faulk said among the items agents seized during the raids was a bag of empty prescription bottles which originally contained prescription medication collected by his office at death scenes.
Faulk said his office had already previously destroyed those medications and others. More prescription medications that had not yet been destroyed, Faulk said, were also seized.
“I heard it was my job to remove it and destroy it. I wish I could leave it (at a scene) in good conscience, but someone could get it, take too much of it or sell it, whatever. “
Faulk said the amount of time it takes him to destroy any drugs collected from a death scene depends on how busy he is at that particular moment.
“Sometimes these cases are one after another and I just can’t stop,” he said. “I’ll keep it in an evidence bag and put it somewhere safe for obvious reasons. Sometimes, it will add up to four or five bags and I’ll throw it all in a plastic ziplock and destroy it, then dispose of it.”
Faulk claims the medication bottle itself can also assist in his death investigation.
“The medicine tells you who (the decedents’) doctors are. Then you can look up what hospital that the doctor works for who wrote the prescription. You can also tell if they took too many pills. In other words, you count how many pills that are in the bottle and what’s actually prescribed. Say there’s 30 pills and they just got it and 10 pills are inside, but only two days have passed. That means they could have taken too much of that. All these little things count in determining cause and manner of death.”
After agents were finished searching Faulk’s home office, he said, they went by the county coroner’s office located in Bay St. Louis and seized items from inside.
Faulk said articles of clothing belonging to the deceased and any other items his department had collected from death scenes and kept stored at the office were also seized. These items, Faulk said, were used to assist in his death investigations.
Computers, cellphones and other office supplies were also taken by agents during the search, he said.
“It’s all ridiculous,” Faulk said. “It’s all new to me.”
Faulk said he felt personally attacked by the investigation and seizures.
Although Faulk said he did not know of any specific allegations, he said agents alluded to varies “wrongdoings” during the search.
“I always look at what’s right and what’s wrong,” Faulk said. “Everything that he (the agent) said he thought I should be doing, I believe would be the wrong thing to do.
“Violating procedure and doing what’s right is not necessarily always wrong. I’ve always done what’s right from what’s wrong”
Faulk said his office also seized cash and other valuables at homes of the deceased.
According to Faulk, when the coroner’s office seizes any money or other personal belongings, those items typically stay at the funeral home and are signed over to relatives of the deceased. At times, Faulk said, it’s given to the next of kin who may arrive at the scene.
According to Faulk, any cash his office seized was counted several times in front of multiple witnesses, at many times including law enforcement officials.
Family members, he said, must sign paperwork for any personal property before receiving it, Faulk said.
“To this state guy, it’s supposed to be the wrong thing to do,” Faulk said. “I don’t believe in anybody’s mind anywhere it would be the wrong thing to do. … Not a penny is missing. That’s why it’s counted several times in front of witnesses. I can’t just leave it there.”
Faulk said any and all valuables collected are also accounted for.
“None of it has profited me by one penny, nor would I let it,“ he said.
Faulk said he is being cooperative in the investigation, although he believes it is retaliation and an effort to remove him from office.
“Many people hate me because I’m not a ‘good ole boy,’” he said. “I’m not a yes man.”
Mississippi Code 41-29-154 states that “Any controlled substance or paraphernalia seized” should be destroyed or disposed of solely with written authorization of the director of the MBN, and then only after “after such substance or paraphernalia has served its usefulness as evidence or after such substance or paraphernalia is no longer useful for training or demonstration purposes.”
Even then, under the statute, “A record of the disposition of such substances and paraphernalia and the method of destruction or adulteration employed along with the names of witnesses to such destruction or adulteration shall be retained by the director. No substance or paraphernalia shall be disposed of, destroyed or rendered harmless under the authority of this section without an order from the director and without at least two (2) officers or agents of the bureau present as witnesses.”
Also according to state law, "health-care providers, coroners and law enforcement officers shall notify the bureau of any death caused by a drug overdose within twenty-four (24) hours."
Faulk’s personal health battle with cancer and COVID-19
Faulk said he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer some time last year and was prescribed medication to treat the cancer.
Earlier this year, Faulk contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized as a result. He said doctors said told him he had suffered congestive heart failure. Both the medication and COVID-19, Faulk said, can cause congestive heart failure.
Faulk said he spent eight days at the hospital.
“I think the COVID-19 made my mind forget stuff more than usual,” he said. “It also made me to where I couldn’t sleep. I was desperate for sleep. I finally got some rest when I got home.”
Faulk said that, for the most part, he is feeling better. but he still has rough days.
“Sometimes I still get short of breath. Sometimes I can’t think right. Sometimes I can’t remember right, it’s just off-and-on stuff all the time,” he said. “Now this. God is going to have to do something, because He knows I’m not a crook and that I’m trying to do the best and most honest things. So I have to just depend on Him.”
As for now, Faulk said, he is still the county coroner and plans to continue to work any active cases.
However, he is preparing for what’s to come.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “Not sure how and if it can get any worse. I just try to always do what’s right, opposed to what’s wrong. I’m not ashamed for doing the right thing nor will I ever be ashamed of doing the right thing.”
Faulk said he plans to continue to cooperate with the investigation