Autopsy questions

Would an autopsy NORMALLY be performed for a 40yo woman who is thrown from a horse, hits head on tree, attended by an ambulance and died in the hospital?

I’m wondering if the police are somehow doubting the circumstances of the accident or if it is just normal to do an autopsy.

A little extra background, the family living in this house (3 female adults) came into a bit of money recently. The 74yo woman died in her sleep two weeks before the 40yo was thrown from the horse and killed. Now it is just a 20yo girl with known drug connections living there.

If the 74yo died in her sleep and was found dead in the morning, would they have NORMALLY done an autopsy on her?

(My answers apply to the State of North Carolina, where I worked in decedent care a few years ago. Laws and practices may be different in different states, and almost certainly are in different countries.)

A coroner would usually perform an autopsy on the woman who fell from the horse. Accidental deaths almost always receive coroner’s autopsies. The 70 year old woman who died in her sleep wouldn’t necessarily have an autopsy done on her unless her family requested it, or the coroner’s office determined it would be required (they tend to only intervene in situations of apparent natural death without a family request when requested by law enforcement, IME)

I recall a horse “accident” a few years back where it was determined the woman in question was murdered by a blunt impact to the skull, by an object that did not match anything at the site of the fall.

There was a husband a decade or more ago who bashed in his wife’s skull and blamed it on a horse fall. There was a true crime book about it.

I wanna say Ann Rule was the author, but I can’t find anything to support it. But I DO remember what you’re talking about!

Now that I think about it, it may have been on TV - can’t remember the name of the show.

There was a murder disguised as a fall from a horse on DollHouse a few years ago…Hauntedwas the episode in question.

To the OP, can you suggest to either the family doctor or the insurance company that the death may have been not-accidental? I suppose I’ve just read too many mystery novels, but it seems like you should tell your suspicions to someone.

Got it. It was in Hillsdale County, Michigan. He injected her w/ a strong muscle relaxant first.

Noting that procedures vary between jurisdictions, it would be common for a straightforward accident (involving a horse or other conveyance) to be referred to the coroner/medical examiner, but not necessarily requiring an autopsy to be performed (they could review the circumstances and determine that an autopsy is not required).

As for dying in your sleep at age 74, if you have a history of ischemic heart disease for which you are being seen by a physician and die under circumstances pointing to a myocardial infarction, an autopsy is unlikely to be performed. If you were perfectly healthy with no history of any serious illness it’s more likely that an autopsy will be done (especially if your spouse was seen on the town celebrating after your death).

In some jurisdictions “medical” autopsies (unattended deaths from presumed natural causes, for example) are commonly performed. In places where the M.E. is very busy and resources are stretched thin, they may be less likely to do them.

It sounds like from the OP that there was an autopsy and the OP wanted to know if this meant for certain that the police suspected foul play.

I’m just trying to figure out if my neighbor is suspect as a murderer… so here’s the longer version:

About 8 years ago a couple living next door to them died. The man 52yo became suddenly ill, rushed to hospital, dead by morning. Later the wife (a nurse) was supposedly killed by horses on the farm, except that she was afraid of horses and never went near them. It was decided that her new boyfriend bashed her head in. [Oh, and the couple that owned the hosue before them also ended up dead w/in 5yr of purchasing the place]

Fast forward a couple years, the now-dead 40yo claimes to have killed the nurse lady as an attempt to scare me.

Fast forward to end of Apr 2012, the family starts aquiring A LOT of new horses and vechicles.

Late May, the 74yo is found dead in the morning.

Two weeks later, the 40yo is killed in horse fall. Cornor was called/cancelled for the accident scene, she was hauled to hospital, died and cornor gets a hold of her. Next day, grapevine says that the cornor is doing an autopsy.

In May of last year, ‘associates’ of the still-alive 19yo held the people in that house hostage at gun point while three women ransacked the place looking for ‘something’ (wink, wink). The two people held hostage were a woman accused of robbing a gas station the month prior and a man who’d been gut-shot in a dispute two weeks prior.

The police have responded to that house more than 30 times since 2006 (none were ‘cat in tree’ calls). In 2010, the now-dead 40yo was arrested for interfering with DEA who were trying to haul a drug trafficer out of her house because she luvvveedddd him. (She got prosecuted locally, he got hauled to federal prison)

So, the police are well aware of the temperment of the residents of that house and I’m not interested in butting in because my mortgage is under water and it isn’t like I can just pick up and move.

If an autopsy is normal, then they don’t necesarily think the woman was murdered. They’re just following procedures.

So, here’s the rest of the story… because I’m a little freaked and really wish I could move…

The 78yo was aunt of the 40yo who is mother of the still-alive 19yo

There are two 4yo children in the house because the 40yo and 19yo got pregnant and delivered babies at the same time. (Yes, she was 15yo at the time of birth)

The 19yo is due with her next kid in a couple months - so, really, if she killed her mom, it could have just been hormones, right?

Our last Coroner was busted because he paid for his nuddy-bar habit with the credit cards of his customers. It turns out, some poor family looked at the last billing statement and wondered why granpa had gone to the nuddy-bar for two weeks following his death. That caused other families to start looking at those final bills of their loved ones and the local strip club had been doing a lot of business with dead people. So, given the local community’s hiring practices, I’m not sure what sort of M.E. they have now.

Our last Sherrif was busted on DUI and recorded bribing one of his own deputies (auto-dash cam) to let him go. This came on the heals of a Sherrif who’d been stealing stuff from a celebrity (who had reason to be local) and selling them on ebay. So, also not sure what the current Sherrif is like either.

And people say that it is safe to live in small towns?

My (totally inexpert) opinion is that they don’t necessarily think the woman was murdered–but they may well not be just following procedures anyway.

Given the family history, any death is suspicious and worth a little more investigation than it might be in a family with a different history.

But not all suspicious deaths are murder, and even if it was murder, there may not be enough evidence to prosecute.

Sounds like the plot of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple story The Case of the Caretaker, from about 1926. The police ordered an autopsy (‘post-mortem’) in that case, too.

I’m guessing that an anti-mortem autopsy was being a bit too agressive? I’m looking up the book to see if I can find a copy. That should be interesting.

<nitpick> antemortem

Has to be that.
Anti-mortem describes pretty much everything doctors do.

You all live an exciting life in this small town.

I don’t know anything about autopsies but this whole story should be pitched as a new television series.