Contract worker 'disappears'; EBR seeks pathologist
By Josh Noel, The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

January 23, 2004

The doctor who has done most of East Baton Rouge Parish's forensic autopsies during the past three years -- including autopsies of three serial killer victims -- stopped working last month, Coroner Shannon Cooper said this week.

Dr. Michael Cramer stopped returning Cooper's phone calls just before Jan. 1, after saying he had "concerns," Cooper said.

"I wanted to discuss them with him, but he disappeared before I could talk to him," Cooper said.

Cramer was a contract worker with the Coroner's Office earning $500 per autopsy, said Don Moreau, the office's chief of operations.

Former Coroner Louis Cataldie hired Cramer about three years ago after severing ties with LSU's Earl K. Long Medical Center, where autopsies had been performed, Moreau said.

Though Cramer lived in Mississippi, he commuted to Baton Rouge to work. Cramer could not be reached for comment.

Cooper said he has already begun seeking Cramer's replacement.

"We have a few leads, but we're not close," he said.

Moreau said he hopes to hire a full-time pathologist to do the parish's autopsies, rather than to hire another contract worker.

He said he has about $100,000 budgeted for job, which would probably require about 200 autopsies per year.

In Cramer's absence, Cooper has been doing most of the autopsies in the parish, he said.

Among Cramer's highest-profile work were autopsies of south Louisiana serial killer victims Gina Wilson Green, Charlotte Murray Pace and Carrie Lynn Yoder, all of Baton Rouge.

Six womens' deaths between September 2001 and March 2003 have been linked by DNA evidence to the same man. Derrick Todd Lee of St. Francisville was arrested in connection with the crimes last year and awaits trial.

Cooper said Cramer will probably not be required to testify at Lee's first-degree murder trial.

Cooper also said he has hired deputy coroners Ron Taravella and Louis Dedon to head up his office's mental health responsibilities.

Taravella and Dedon took over for Jerry Sanders, the former chief deputy coroner who ran for office against Cooper last year, but quit the race citing personal reasons. Among those reasons was a Sheriff's Office report from 2002 that revealed two of Sanders' adult male cousins had accused him of paddling their bare buttocks in exchange for tuition and rent money.

Sanders claimed he only paddled the men as punishment for misdeeds.


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