Police initially ruled a Florida mother's shooting death a suicide, but now they think it may have been a homicide, based on the results of an independent autopsy.
Police found Michelle O'Connell, 24, shot dead in her Florida home in 2010, and said at the time the death was a suicide. O'Connell's family suspected that the woman's boyfriend, sheriff's deputy Jeremy Banks, was behind her death, according to the Daily Mail. A recent examination of the body by Dr. William Anderson has revealed that O'Connell's death may have been a homicide.
The O'Connell family's attorney has said that the new information from the independent autopsy will be submitted to medical examiners in the hopes that the case will go to trial, according to the St. Augustine Record.
O'Connell's body, a gunshot wound to the head, was found next to Banks' duty weapon, but Anderson said that other injuries on her body pointed to an assault before her death.
"I believe that the injury patterns that we see are inconsistent with the individual intra-oral gunshot wound," Anderson told Crime Watch Daily. "We have external trauma and we have significant trauma unrelated to the wound itself."
"That means that someone else was involved in the scenario," he added.
Friends and family of O'Connell said that she had told them Banks had physically assaulted her before, and that she had told them he was violent. She was reportedly packing her bags to move out of the house that they shared before her death. O'Connell's daughter, now nine, was four at the time of her mother's death.
Police investigating O'Connell's death determined that it was a suicide, and said that no one else had been involved. Anderson's autopsy found that the woman's jaw had been snapped before the gun went off, and that the way the gun was positioned in her mouth, O'Connell would have been choking. Anderson's report says that her jaw was broken by a blunt-force impact, which could have been a punch or pistol whip.
O'Connell's family said that Banks could have used his knowledge as a police officer to cover up a murder. "I think he would know how to cover up [the crime]," said Patty, O'Connell's mother. Banks has not been charged with O'Connell's death, and has denied any involvement.
"We've been telling them all along we knew she didn't kill herself and that should bring justice to Michelle's death. The evidence is there for them to do something with it now," said Patty.