Target 8 Coroner Update

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GILLAM - A bill to fund training for Missouri's coroners passed through the state legislature with only hours to spare.

For the family who fought to make it law, the bill has brought some closure on eight years of struggle to find out what happened to their son.

"I know I'll never have the answers of what happened to Jayke, but the closure I will get is helping other people that they don't have to face that," Jay Minor, Jayke's father, said. 

Jayke Minor died in 2011.The Howard County Coroner ruled his death a drug overdose because of Jayke's history with drug use. When the toxicology report came back, only marijuana was found in his system. 

A 2018 KOMU 8 Target 8 investigation showed several other inconsistencies between the coroner's report and the police report.

Soon after, Jay Minor helped introduce a bill to make coroner training and standards stricter. It stalled in the senate. Legislators reintroduced the bill this year and it passed. 

"I remember calling Jay and telling him that if it didn't pass this time, I didn't think we could do it again. But yet we knew we couldn't stop because this law gives Jayke the voice he didn't have, but more importantly it gives every citizen in Missouri that protection that we all deserve," Debby Ferguson, Jay Minor's girlfriend, said. 

With the help of people from the Missouri Coroners' and Medical Examiners' Association and lawmakers, like Willie Harlow, Saline County Coroner, the bill passed.

It came down to the final day of the legislative session. 

"I know there were a lot of stalls in the process the last few days, but we got down to the last 24 hours. And I got a phone call that it had passed in the house 146 to 4, and it was just a glorious moment," Jay Minor said.

The bill creates a coroner's training board and program. It also allows for the collection of one dollar from every certified death certificate in the state of Missouri.

"Every person that has the unfortunate need to utilize the office of coroner, everyone should get the same opportunity, get the same investigations done, have autopsies done, and have someone who's educated and knows what they're doing," Harlow said. 

Jay Minor credits the people that worked with and supported him, like Harlow and Ferguson, for the bill's success this year.  

"The coroner's motto is to speak for the dead to protect the living. When my son passed away, that didn't happen. There was no voice for him. That's why I'm so grateful for this group of people, because they have been Jayke's voice," Minor said.

Those people give the credit right back to Minor.

"He's amazing. I couldn't do what he did," Ferguson said. 

Harlow said he hopes the bill will give them both a sense of peace. 

"I'm sad that they will never, ever know why their child died. But it does bring closure, I think, for them to know that his death wasn't in vain. It was something that was the catalyst for what this bill is all about, and had it not been for them sharing their story, this bill would have never come about," Harlow said.

While this bill's passing is a major step forward, Ferguson says there is still more work to be done. 

"This isn't just a Missouri thing, you know. We're getting letters from people nation-wide. I think it's going to go bigger," Ferguson said.

Knowing that his work will help people all around the country has given Jay Minor the closure he didn't get eight years ago.

KOMU 8 reached out to Governor Parson's office to find out if plans have been made to sign the bill into law, but has not received a response.

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