The Office of the Attorney General has finally inked an agreement with a pathologist who would do the autopsies on four bodies in the CNMI, three of which relate to cases that remain unresolved since late last year.
“We have just executed the agreement this morning with [the] pathologist and I hope and pray that [he/she] will be here next week. We’re talking about a pathologist out of Hawaii,” Attorney General Edward Manibusan said in an interview Friday. “[This is] for all the pending cases: the two victims that were shot in San Antonio, one traffic fatality, and the one at the beach side in Marpi.”
The pathologist will be examining the bodies of Li Na Lim, 43, and Linhua Cui, 53, both found dead inside the Rice Cake Best Food Restaurant in San Antonio in the morning of Dec. 13, 2019; the body of Sergio Apostol, 62, victim of a fatal auto collision in Puerto Rico on Dec. 16, 2019; as well as the decomposing body of a still unidentified man found in a cove of Bird Island in Marpi in Nov. 25, 2019.
Manibusan said the OAG has been working hard for the last several weeks to get the pathologist to come out on Saipan.
“It has been [a] very difficult process. We are dealing with medical examiners who have [a] variety of work somewhere else, and flying out here is not that very easy. So, it’s been very difficult,” the attorney general added.
“I’ve been in communication with the family, with consular officers concerned in this case, and they’re all happy that we’re doing it. They wanted us to do it today but we can’t. We have some limitations. So, it’s one of our projects that we are really trying to push forward and we hope to get it done soon,” he added.
Autopsies on the bodies had been put on hold due to the lack of a medical examiner to conduct post-mortem forensic investigations following the retirement of Dr. Aurelio Espinola, the only forensic pathologist in the Marianas, in January last year, at the age of 77.
An autopsy determines the cause and manner of a person’s death, with the medical examiner to certify if a person’s death was a result of a criminal act.
In an interview with the Department of Public Safety in June 2019, DPS spokesperson Adrian Pangelinan said that the department has always been affected by not having a CNMI-based forensic pathologist, even more so without one based in the Marianas.