State Crime Lab Sees Caseloads Climb as Violent Deaths Increase

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) – With almost 70 homicides in Pulaski County alone this year, and just under 300 across the state, the Arkansas State Crime Lab has been busy.

Lab officials say they’re expecting to perform close to 200 more autopsies this year than last.

“The overall trend is overly upward,” says Dr. Charles Kokes, Chief Medical Examiner of the Arkansas State Crime Lab.

Dr. Kokes has more than 30 years of performing autopsies in Arkansas under his belt.

“You focus on answering the questions and doing your job,” he adds.

But sometimes the work can be stressful.

“Those are tough cases,” he says. “It can hit close to home…that does cross your mind.”

There are some cases that are especially difficult to deal with.

“Every one is a tragedy for the medical staff,” Dr. Kokes says.

2017 proves to be one of those years where the caseload continues to grow and the homicide count does too.

Dr. Kokes says his team has performed just under 300 autopsies in Pulaski County alone, 69 of those homicides. He projects the number of total autopsies this year to close in on 1,650.

While it’s tough on each community to lose someone, Dr. Kokes says it’s tough on his team too in dealing with death and the effects of violence.

“Some cases are more difficult to contend with on an emotional level than others,” he continues.

Dr. Kokes says with more then three decades of working in the lab, he knows he and his staff have to approach every case the same.

“What keeps you going is the knowledge that this is a necessary task we do,” he says.

While the Chief Medical Examiner couldn’t comment on specific cases, he did say there are always those few that hit closer to home.

And while he’d like to be optimistic that after a busy summer, the numbers will level out, he doesn’t think that will be the case.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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