DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A gunshot wound went unnoticed on the body of a 59-year-old Detroit man until a funeral home prepared to embalm the body, hampering a police investigation into the death, his family and officials said.
The body of Leslie Brooks was found over the weekend in a basement room that he rented from friends on Dean Street, near 7 Mile and Ryan. Investigators found the body face down and determined Brooks died from natural causes.
Police say the body was then taken to James H Cole Home for Funerals, where a mortician noticed a small-caliber gunshot wound on Brooks’ chest. The mortician retrieved Brooks’ clothes, saw holes and a small amount of blood and examined the wound.
Carla Cole, president of the home, said the wound was tiny, likely from a small-caliber weapon.
Talking to WWJ Newsradio 950, she said the family is thankful.
“He could have been cremated and nobody would have known the man was murdered,” Cole said. “So I know they, you know, are grateful that we found the hole and reported it so that maybe somebody can be held accountable for his demise. Because I know they want to bring some closure to it.”
However, by that time, the missed gunshot wound hampered any investigation into Brooks’ death.
Investigators had already ruined a possible crime scene in the east-side basement where Brooks was found. Visitors tracked in and out, police technicians didn’t scour the room or take photos until later and there was no immediate preservation of possible clues.
An autopsy wasn’t immediately performed on Brooks because of the initial belief that he died of natural causes and due to the fact that his doctor told morgue investigators that Brooks had a history of cancer, high blood pressure and heart trouble.
Detroit police said in a statement Tuesday that internal affairs planned to investigate “to determine if all departmental procedures and protocols were followed.” The statement confirmed the wound was discovered at the funeral home. It said no further comment would be made until the investigation is complete.
Detroit EMS said procedure was followed by medics, WJBK reported. Al Samuels, the chief investigator for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, also said his office followed proper procedure.
A mortician for 38 years, Gail Washington said it was the fourth time she has discovered a fatal bullet wound on someone initially ruled a natural death.
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