New Okla. law allows families to challenge medical examiner

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ELMORE CITY, OK - The Chanda Turner Reform Act went into effect in Oklahoma yesterday and the new law allows families, like Chanda's, the chance to appeal the medical examiners cause of death ruling.

After ten years of waiting, the parents of a Garvin County girl, whose death was ruled a suicide, said they finally have a chance to set the record straight.

Chanda Turner was just 23-years-old when she was found shot outside her boyfriends home in 2000.

After what her family describes as very little investigation and no autopsy, her death was ruled a suicide.

"On Sunday we had a family gathering, she was happy, she was talking about her future," Chanda's mother Donna Turner said. "Her self esteem was fantastic."

Chanda's family said a suicide just didn't add up.

"I walked into the bedroom and I had to sit down [on the mattress] with her blood all over it, she was never supposed to be in that house," Donna said. "My knees almost went out from under me and I had to sit on it. And they tell me that she was never in that house."

The Turners said they tried unsuccessfully to get the medical examiners office to perform an autopsy.

The court ordered an autopsy be performed in 2009 and Chanda's body was exhumed.

"It was awful, thats one thing that just tears me up," Donna said. I'll never get over hearing that casket come up out of that vault and it just echoed."

Just as the Turners believed all along the death was ruled a homicide, but staffing changes and other turmoil within the medical examiners office kept the death certificate from being corrected.

Oklahoma State Senator Frank Simpson said, "The medical examiners office has been an issue for many years and unfortunately the Turner family was a victim of the problems within the medical examiners office."

Desperate for justice, the family turned to lawmakers for help and the legislature unanimously passed a law to help victims like the Turners.

"The law that was passed, the Chanda Turner Reform Act allows families to obtain information from the medical examiners office and it requires the medical examiners office to provide that information to the family," Senator Simpson said.

With that law now in effect the Turners will present their case to a judge in late January.

They say, when the day finally comes and Chanda's death certificate is changed, they will pursue a deeper investigation to find who they believe killed their daughter.

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