Suspect fails in bid to stop burial of slain JSU student

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Hinds County Circuit Court judge has denied requests by an attorney for suspect Stanley Cole to preserve the body of slain Jackson State University student Latasha Norman and to hire an outside expert to examine her body.

Cole’s attorney filed the requests Wednesday questioning the accuracy of earlier autopsies, including the one performed by the state’s chief pathologist, Dr. Steven Hayne. Hinds County Circuit Judge Swan Yerger denied the requests on Thursday.

“Steven Hayne was unable to determine a cause of death. Consequently, at the behest of the state, the body was examined by a forensic anthropologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a cause of death was supposedly determined,” the motion said.

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District Attorney Faye Peterson said she aggressively fought the request because it would have been “cruel” to Norman’s family.

“This family has been through so much for so long. They have a right to bury their daughter,” she said.

Cole’s attorney, public defender Matthew Eichelberger, said he sympathizes with the family but that access to an independent examination is Cole’s right.

In the motion Eichelberger said that preserving the body was an immediate issue because “the burial or cremation of the alleged victim’s body would forever bar examination” by a defense expert.

He said he likely will refile the motion or a similar one later.

Neither side has seen the autopsy report.

The motion also asked the court to provide the defense with $3,000 to hire the expert.

Norman’s family members plan to hold a private burial service after receiving her body this week.

A funeral service was held Dec. 8 for Norman who was missing 16 days before her body was discovered Nov. 29 in a wooded area. Norman was a 20-year-old junior accounting major from Greenville.

The badly decomposed remains were shipped to a forensic anthropologist at the University of Southern Mississippi for examination. Officials determined that Norman had been stabbed to death. Her body was turned over to the family on Tuesday.

“We just want to put her in the ground so she can be at peace and so we can move on and continue healing,” Danny Bolden, Norman’s father, said Wednesday. “Our hearts were heavy, knowing that we hadn’t gotten her back.”

Cole, Norman’s ex-boyfriend, was arrested and charged with murder the day the body was discovered. Information obtained from Cole during an interview led police to the body.

Jackson Police Department Sgt. Eric Smith would not say whether a murder weapon was found.

Smith said the case will be turned over to the Hinds County district attorney’s office for a grand jury review. Cole is being held without bond at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. His preliminary hearing is Jan. 7.