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County marks rise in deaths

Profile image for By Megan Gray
By Megan Gray

Official says Labor Day weekend was deadliest period in past 10 years

Denton County marked its deadliest weekend in history, Aug. 30 through Sept. 2, said Troy Taylor, chief death investigator.

Over the four-day Labor Day weekend this year, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner District’s Denton office had a total of eight investigative cases — a number that hasn’t been seen in Taylor’s entire tenure with the county.

“This was by far the deadliest and busiest time period in the 10 years I have been over this office,” he said. “To my knowledge, Labor Day weekend was not only the busiest holiday weekend, but the busiest time ever in the county’s history.”

In addition to the eight cases, Taylor said his office had 18 administrative calls to respond to — tallying 26 deaths within the county.

The several investigative calls had the office personnel spread thin, but they were able to swiftly come through with autopsy results.

Administrative calls, Taylor said, take only about an hour per call and are mostly just verifying a natural cause of death with the person’s physician.

“Some [administrative] calls can take only about 15 to 20 minutes,” Taylor said.

The many deaths Labor Day weekend that made headlines began with a murder-suicide in Denton on Friday, Aug. 30. Denton police, responding to the report of a shooting in the 1800 block of Locksley Lane around 9 p.m. that Friday, discovered the bodies of Anne Huffhines, 55, and Anthony Farish, 46, outside their residence, said Officer Ryan Grelle, department spokesman.

Police reported that Farish shot and killed his wife before taking his own life in the driveway of their home.

The medical examiner was then called to a one-vehicle accident in the 3900 block of Interstate 35E at 2:45 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. Michael Ramsey, 22, of Coppell, died from multiple blunt force injuries after he lost control of his white Ford Ranger pickup.

On Sunday, Sept. 1, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office responded to a homicide call at Savannah Estates, a community-style development off U.S. Highway 380.

Artegus Konyale Madden, 34, was found by friends shot to death in the living room of her home on Hayden Lane. Officials are still searching for the person or persons responsible.

On Monday, Sept. 2, the bodies of two men reported missing over the Labor Day weekend were recovered from Lewisville Lake — marking two drowning cases for Taylor’s office. The two victims, who were reported missing in separate incidents, were identified as Jorge Rodriguez, 33, of Mesquite and Milan Shah, 37, of Frisco.

Rodriguez fell from a double-decker party boat Aug. 30 while he was with his family near The Colony at Pier 121 Marina, Game Warden Daron Blackerby said.

Shah and his two children fell from an inner tube that was being pulled by a boat the afternoon of Sept. 1, Game Warden Logan Griffin said. Griffin said the children, who were wearing life jackets, were not injured, but Shah wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

“The other few remaining deaths were listed as a natural cause of some sort and not trauma-related,” Taylor said.

While this year might go down as having the deadliest weekend, Taylor said homicides are down within the county. In 2011, the Denton office had a total of 10 homicide cases, and in 2012 they saw 11. According to records at the medical examiner’s office, only three homicides have occurred countywide this year.

Taylor hopes this year’s homicide cases stay low.

“We still have a few months to go and anything can happen, but hopefully we don’t go breaking anymore ‘deadliest’ records,” he said.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.