Medical Examiner's Office handles 32 bodies this week: "Not seen this kind of volume before"

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- Officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office had to deal with investigations involving 32 bodies this week -- an all-time record.

Last year, the office performed four autopsies per day.

This week, there were eight autopsies per day.

"Let's just say last year we did 1,350 autopsies. If we maintain this rate this year, we'll be over 1,600. We don't have the staff for that," Brian Peterson, Milwaukee County medical examiner said.

A large number of homicides this past weekend is part of the reason the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office has been overwhelmed.

Two people, 45-year-old Hermalinda Arvelo and 12-year-old Arturo Arvelo were shot and killed near 10th and National on Saturday, March 5th. 41-year-old Carmen Arvelo-Schwingle took her own life after the shooting, at McKinley Marina in Milwaukee.

Miguel Arvelo (left), Arturo Arvelo (center), Hermalinda Arvelo (right)

Early on Sunday morning, March 6th, 23-year-old Tamecca Perry was shot and killed. Perry was nine months pregnant, and her unborn child did not survive.

Tamecca Perry

Three people were killed in a shooting near 92nd and Beloit on Sunday evening: 40-year-old Jesus Manso-Perez, 36-year-old Phia Vue and 32-year-old Mai Vue.

Three shot and killed in home near 92nd and Beloit, one in custody

And on Tuesday, March 8th, 38-year-old Marvin Williams was fatally shot near 40th and Concordia.

The Medical Examiner's Office has also been dealing with a spike in drug overdose deaths and cases sent in from other counties.

"We have an inadequate, small, aging facility that occasionally floods or gets overrun by vermin," Peterson said.

Brian Peterson, Milwaukee County medical examiner

Peterson says so far, the five doctors and assistants have been able to keep up with the work, to quickly allow grieving families to get some closure, and provide evidence in police investigations.

But that could change.

"It was just stressful and of course, we don't have great temperature control. It was hot and humid down there," Peterson said.

There's also an unfilled position in the toxicology lab, increasing the stress in the Medical Examiner's Office.

"With all these drug cases, we're seeing the turnaround time increase. It's frustrating, but that's what we've got," Peterson said.

The increasing stress on this office is something that's being talked about by Milwaukee County officials.

"Is it a blip? It may be. I've not seen this kind of volume before in Milwaukee. Maybe this is the new normal though," Peterson said.

Officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office have been working longer hours -- but the workload can't be increased much more in order for the office to remain accredited.

That's why Milwaukee County officials have begun to talk about what to do about this situation and as it relates to the facility.