The Mississippi Forensics Laboratory (Photo: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety)

The state's three medical examiners perform around 1,400 autopsies per year. 

In any given week, at least one and sometimes two of them are out of the state office to testify in court. That leads to situations like the one faced by the doctor who single-handedly had to do 19 autopsies on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

By the end of the year, one of those three will be gone after accepting a new job this week.

That will leave the state with two medical examiners at a time, says Mississippi Forensics Laboratory Director Sam Howell, when Mississippi's homicide rate is on track to be higher this year than it has been in recent memory and drug overdoses are at an all-time high. Suicides also have to come through the state Crime Lab, as well as a good number of wreck victims and many times natural deaths in order to determine the cause.

Despite the $30 million, state-of-the-art facility in Pearl it moved into a little more than two years ago, the Crime Lab now has the lowest number of trained forensic scientists it's had since 2004-2005, Howell said. Since 2012 alone, staff numbers have dropped from 101 to 83, and some of those are not forensic scientists.

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