I think the best way to explain what happened the first time I encountered Larry Vineyard is to share an email with you.
To let you know the background: Henry’s autopsy was released in mid August. In early September, the local newspaper ran a story about the fact that it had been released, and about how Henry had died of an overdose, not because of physical injuries. (A non-issue, as far as our family was concerned)
In November, I summoned the strength to sit down and read Henry’s autopsy in depth one more time, this time trying to figure out why the toxicology report did not list drugs I knew he had taken in the day or two preceding the overdose (turns out that’s because no real toxicology report was done. But that’s another story.)
In re-reading Henry’s autopsy 6 months after his death, I noticed something for the very first time. The report appeared to say that Henry’s brain had not been released to us with the rest of his body when the autopsy was complete. Instead, what it said was that it had been retained and “fixed in formalin.”
I Googled the language to see if I was reading what I thought I was reading. I emailed the autopsy to two close friends – an MD and a nursing professor at Vanderbilt – to ask them if that line in the autopsy could possibly mean what it appeared to me. I just could not believe that I could be interpreting this correctly, since no one from any agency had EVER asked or even INFORMED Henry’s father and me that his body was missing his brain when it was released to us for funeral preparations. So I did not want to believe what I was reading in that autopsy report. How could this even be possible?
But after doing a little research, I realized that indeed, it appeared that my son’s brain was not with his body, and that if I had not noticed this myself in a line buried in his autopsy, no one ever would have told me. I never would have known.
And that led to another horrifying realization, if it wasn’t where I’d assumed it was, where was my child’s beautiful brain? Who had it, and why?
So I pulled myself together, willing myself not to become hysterically upset, and did the only thing I knew how to do: I started trying to track down Henry’s missing brain.
Here’s the email I sent my mother and siblings, plus a few close friends at 1:30 pm EST on November 23, 2010. I have redacted one name (from the DA’s office).
After that horrifying conversation with Mr. Vineyard, I cried for several days straight, and I then emailed the Knox County ME directly to try to track down my child’s missing brain. She responded. As it turned out, her office HAD removed and kept my son’s brain without even informing us, leaving us to believe that the body released to us, the body we cremated, was whole when it was not.
However, my son’s brain had not been “shipped to a specialist in Rochester.” Mr. Vineyard had told me that without checking any records, and he was wrong. He was apparently simply too busy to get his facts straight when speaking with a mother trying to track down her dead teenager’s missing vital organs.
What happened with Henry’s brain being kept without anyone so much as TELLING us was bad enough, but Mr. Vineyard’s cruel and callous treatment of me when I called seeking answers made it much, much worse.