Sometimes, in the frantic, chaotic attempts to save a person's life in the emergency room after a possible crime, potential forensic evidence can be lost when clothes are cut off and possibly discarded.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Rory Rowland, D-Independence, and rooted in a homicide from July 2013 aims to curb such losses through requirements for nurse training, collecting and storing forensic evidence, as well as reporting certain wounds.
Rowland dubbed House Bill 1071 “Corey's Law,” for Corey Laykovich, who died from stab wounds suffered during a fight in Independence.
John Seger pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last November and was sentenced to nine years in state prison. But he was not arrested and charged for the crime until January 2017, after he had been picked up on an unrelated matter and admitted he had stabbed Laykovich during a fight near Laykovich's home, fled the scene and threw the knife away in the woods. Police had considered him a suspect from the beginning but didn't have enough evidence for an arrest.
“It's deflating that in this day and age of touch and DNA evidence, that nothing could be found on Corey's clothes,” Laykovich's mother, Michelle Metje, said in a release. “This evidence is just as important as a rape kit, and the evidence cannot be contaminated.”
First, Corey's Law requires that any facility with an emergency room provide three hours of annual training on collecting forensic evidence to ER nurses, training the hospital would provide as part of ongoing education.
Second, it would require that potential evidence collected while treating gunshot or stab wound patients be securely stored and not discarded until directed by investigators. In addition, emergency rooms would be required to have evidence collection kits, as developed by the Department of Health and Senior Services, for examining victims of a gunshot or stabbing wound.
Last, it would require hospitals to report stab and cut wounds greater than one inch. They already are required to report gunshot wounds, but right now have to ask about reporting such stab wounds.
Rowland emphasized he's not out to embarrass any hospital or law enforcement but rather be “solution-focused” with the bill.
Many ERs at larger hospitals tend to have some kind of procedures in place to preserve forensic evidence, Rowland said. He thinks he might receive some pushback from hospitals on the provision for required training.
Rowland said that in his research he asked many of nurses whether it would be better to have some training on the matter or to have a forensic nurse on call, and almost all pointed to training.
While Laykovich's killer ultimately was convicted, Metje said the years before not knowing what he looked like – Seger had generally been homeless and Laykovich and family only knew him by his nickname “Cody” – were gut wrenching and might have been avoidable.
“She wants to have protections in place so that other families don't have the same pain,” Rowland said. “Don't just throw stuff on floor, but have a bag ready to put that in.”
A year after Laykovich's death, Metje and husband Bob Norris founded the non-profit group Corey's Network, which is designed to help families of homicide victims in the metro area with financial assistance, counseling and other services. To date, the group has helped with more than 160 funerals.
“I've been a social worker for 31 years now, so it's in my blood to help people,” Metje said. “God gave me the skills to go through what I had to go through.”
“I don't want you to know how it feels to have your child killed. What I want you to know is that if it does happen to you, I am here for you.”