NEWPORT—Cocke County Circuit Court Judge Ben Hooper granted an injunction Tuesday against county coroner Terry Jarnigan, after he allegedly compromised a corpse he was told would be sent for an autopsy earlier this month.
Two affidavits, one written by Cocke County Sheriff’s Department Det. Paula Wilson, and the other one by Lt. Robert Thornton, were filed at the request of the district attorney’s office.
Det. Wilson said she was at the Newport Medical Center when she saw Jarnigan move the victim’s head back and forth, and then touch a head wound of the person who recently died from an apparent self-inflicted wound, allegedly after Det. Wilson and Lt. Thornton had told Jarnigan the body would be sent for an autopsy.
Det. Wilson said, “When we arrived at the hospital we discussed with Jarnigan that the body was going to be autopsied and that a gunshot residue test was requested, as well.”
Det. Wilson stated in her affidavit that she was in the process of getting her camera out so she could take better photos of the gunshot wound, when Jarnigan allegedly began to turn the head from side to side.
Jarnigan then allegedly touched the victim’s head wound, Det. Wilson said in the affidavit.
Lt. Thornton said he had sought approval from the district attorney’s office to have the body autopsied “to help confirm whether the death was a suicide or homicide.” He said Jarnigan “was made aware that we were sending the body for an autopsy” before Jarnigan examined the body.
Lt. Thornton signed his affidavit on Nov. 17. Det. Wilson filed her affidavit on Nov. 18.
Judge Hooper stated in his Order seeking injunctive relief that, “It is therefore ordered, ajudged and decreed that a temporary restraining order shall issue restraining the Respondent, Terry Jarnigan, as follows:
• Terry Jarnigan shall not be present at any crime scenes, or purported crime scenes;
• Terry Jarnigan shall not disturb or touch evidence of any purported or suspected crimes or crime scenes; and
• Terry Jarnigan shall not disturb or touch bodies of victims or purported victims of crimes.
• This Order shall remain in full force and effect pending a hearing in this matter which is now set for Dec. 8, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.”