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7968: autopsy results shared with widow (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Autopsy results shared with widow

``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 
last Monday.

``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 
for prayer.

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 
by mid-week.

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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