(TMU) — On April 9, 2018, the Palmers experienced every family’s worst nightmare. Everett Palmer Jr., a veteran and father of two children, had died while in police custody, they were told. Months later, the family was just as shocked when an independent pathologist said Palmer’s body was missing its throat, heart, and brain.
Two days before his death, Everett had made a trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to deal with an outstanding DUI warrant stemming from a 2016 arrest. He never returned. According to police, when Everett showed up to Pennsylvania he was immediately sent to York County Prison because of a suspended license.
Little was known about what happened after that until July 2018, when the York County Coroner’s report and autopsy results spelled out the official narrative of how Everett died.
According to the autopsy, Everett had become “agitated” while incarcerated inside his single cell and started to slam his head against his cell door. Subsequently, Everett became unresponsive and officers “restrained” him and took him to the prison’s clinic for resuscitation. Palmer was pronounced dead at the York Hospital at 5:46 a.m.
The coroner’s office—whom, it was later revealed, had outsourced the autopsy to an independent company—determined that the cause of death was “complication following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint.” Autopsy results also listed a sickle-cell disorder as a contributing factor.
Forensic Pathology Associates, the third-party firm who conducted the autopsy, declined to describe the manner of Palmer’s death but York County Coroner Pamela L. Gay said methamphetamine alone could be responsible, though she does not know how Palmer acquired the drug while incarcerated.
Looking for answers, the Palmer family hired civil rights attorney Lee Merritt and an independent pathologist who made a series of shocking discoveries. First, Everett’s body was badly bruised. Additionally, his throat, heart, and brain had been removed.
Merritt claims he was issued several half-truths, lies, and anomalous statements in response to these missing organs. Initially, he says, the York County Coroner’s Office said they did not remove the organs. They later admitted they had removed them, only to blame the missing organs on the independent firm.
“This entire case smacks of a cover-up,” Merritt said in a recent interview.
However, York County Coroner Pamela L. Gay says the removal and storage of organs in this manner for further investigation is routine and abides by guidelines.
The independent pathologist who discovered the missing organs went even further in saying that the manner of death should be considered a homicide. Given that Everett was in the chain of custody of police before, during, and after his death—and was in a single-cell unit at the time he sustained his injuries—homicide would suggest there is a possibility the police were involved.
“We’re gonna get answers to what led to his death, and we do that with everybody,” Gay recently stated as the case began to receive more attention. “We’re going to do this the right way.”
But for the Palmer family, the ordeal has been going on for two years and many critical questions remain unanswered.
In an interview with NY1, Rose Palmer, Everett’s mother, expressed her disbelief at the autopsy conclusions.
“My son was a perfectly healthy young man, and my son is not going to bang his head on a cell,” said Rose. “My son was not a troublemaker, not at all, he was a very gentle, kind man.”
Everett’s brother, Dwyane Palmer, said his brother was in very good health, a “gentle giant” who served as a U.S. Army paratrooper, and that he did not have sickle-cell disorder. While the family admits Everett had “some history of drug use,” that history never included meth. Furthermore, the family says prison processing reports do not corroborate that Everett was intoxicated when he first arrived and do not mention any drug paraphernalia items having been found.
While the York County District Attorney’s Office isn’t discussing the case further until the coroner’s office provides more information, a lingering question for the family is whether the organ removal could have been a way to conceal the cause of death.
Another family attorney, Marlon Kirton, suggested this, saying it “makes no sense, unless you’re trying to maybe avoid people knowing how he died; which was maybe by asphyxiation.”
Dwyane Palmer echoed his mother in saying he doesn’t believe what the authorities tell them. The family has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to acquire surveillance from inside the prison.
“We know that there are good people in that prison system. We appeal to them to come forward and share what they know,” Palmer said in an interview. “It’s been over a year and we want some answers…We want closure. If something criminal happened, and I believe something criminal did happen, we want the people that was involved in that to be held accountable.”