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7968: autopsy results shared with widow (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Autopsy results shared with widow
BY ARNOLD MARKOWITZ
``When I consider a death like this . . . '' the pathologist began.
``He was 49 yesterday,'' the widow interrupted, crying.
That was Sylvanie Mondesir Dorvil, wife of a man who died in police custody
``I have to consider a lot of things,'' the pathologist continued. This was
Reinhard Motte, an associate medical examiner touched by the widow's
anguish. He wanted to tell her personally what he found in the autopsy of
her husband, Marc, whose death in a North Bay Village police car looked a
lot like the result of a cocaine fit, but wasn't.
Motte, acutely aware of the widow's anguish and her need for assurance,
invited her to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office for an extraordinary
visit Saturday. Medical examiners almost never describe their findings
except to each other, to police and to prosecutors, until a death
investigation is formally closed.
``I realized that people were going to link your husband and cocaine, which
I didn't think was fair to his reputation or the family, and I didn't want
this to escalate and get out of hand,'' the doctor told the widow.
Cocaine was the first thing the police thought of, and one of the first
things tested for. Motte found Dorvil's body drug-free -- no cocaine and no
Dorvil's husband, a carpenter by trade, also was a Pentecostal preacher,
devoted to God and his family. Every morning, he woke their three children
The Dorvil case isn't closed, but there was no need for investigative
secrecy: The police who arrested Dorvil after a minor auto accident had not
caused his death, Motte found. Dorvil's only injuries, from a scuffle with
five officers, were a few scrapes and bruises.
Assistant state attorney Susan Dechovits and county homicide detective Gus
Bayas consented to the meeting. They did not attend. The widow went with her
lawyers, Luis and Daren Stabinski. She brought her niece, Gladys Mondesir,
to translate in Creole. They invited a Herald reporter.
The wife was intermittently calm, speaking good conversational English, but
when overwhelmed, resorting to Creole.
``What was the cause of death?'' she asked.
``At this point I'm not 100 percent certain,'' Motte answered. ``I think it
has to do with his delirium and confusion that day. In this situation, I
don't think I'll ever be able to answer that. I've ruled out the most common
Motte is having tests performed on Dorvil's brain tissue, expecting results
Motte said homicide detectives are checking information that Dorvil behaved
bizarrely last weekend. His niece could not understand that. She went to
church with him Sunday morning, and she said he was fine. His wife joined
them at another church in the evening. They said there was nothing unusual
about him then, or at supper that night.
Without a doubt, something was wrong with him Monday morning. No one can
explain why Dorvil, who should have been at work 12 miles away and four
hours earlier, was driving on the 79th Street Causeway at 11:30 a.m. Driving
at crawl speed, he crossed the sidewalk and bumped a wall.
After the fight with police, county paramedics treated the officers for
bites. They did not know about Dorvil, who was handcuffed in the back seat
of a police car. He had kicked the door when officers tried to put him
inside and beat his head on the window after the door was closed, Motte
said. His forehead was bruised.
A while after the paramedics left, officers Armando Alvarez and Amy Suarez
started driving Dorvil to the jail ward at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Near
the entrance to Interstate 95, they noticed he had stopped breathing. Rather
than wait for an ambulance, they took him to Jackson's emergency room --
Alvarez drove and Suarez tried to revive Dorvil with an oxygen kit. He died
No official explanation has been made about why the police didn't mention
Dorvil to the paramedics, but later decided to take him to the hospital
themselves. Motte said he heard it second-hand from investigators:
``My understanding of why the police waited is that he was handcuffed in the
car, and he was in no distress. He seemed OK, even though at some point he
was bashing his head against the glass. The sequence has got to be worked
out in more detail.''
Periodically during the 90-minute meeting, Sylvanie Mondesir burst into
tears, crying Why? Why? Why? Motte waited sympathetically, then resumed his
review of autopsy tests.
While describing the incomplete medical knowledge about fatal episodes of
confusion and delirium like Marc Dorvil's, the pathologist kept his
professional detachment, though their was kindness in his voice.
He seemed to be struggling with something but he hesitated to say.
Finally, Motte crossed the line between sympathy and empathy. He spoke
slowly, a phrase at a time, to the tearful widow, giving her niece time to
translate all his words:
``About 15 years ago, my mom said goodbye to my father and disappeared.
``She drove until her car ran out of gasoline.
``She was found, confused.
``And died seven days later.
``So I have some understanding what it must have felt like, the day your
husband didn't come home.''
The meeting ended. Everyone stood to go.
Sylvanie Mondesir Dorvil stepped toward the pathologist. Their arms opened,
and they hugged for a minute.
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