Police find human tissue, organs in truck during Morgan Co. drunk driving stop

Dr. Elmo Griggs

BROOKLYN, Ind. (WTHR) - A drunk driving arrest in Morgan County has people talking and prosecutors checking their law books.

What occurred on SR 67 outside of Brooklyn Tuesday night is at the very least surprising and, to some, perhaps gruesome, but as we learned, not out of the ordinary and apparently not illegal.

When police pulled over Dr. Elmo Griggs, they found much more than a suspected drunk driver. In the bed of the pathologist's pick-up truck, they discovered plastic tubs full of human tissue samples and, Eyewitness News was told, human organs, some labeled "brains" and "livers."

"In vehicles now, I see syringes. I see meth. I see drugs," Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said.

But Sonnega had never seen human body parts. Police called Morgan County's coroner to the scene to examine the cargo.

"Our coroner, who I've worked with, assured me that however the samples were packaged, labeled, preserved, that there was not an issue of public safety," he explained and, as a result, not a crime.

As an independent contactor, the 75-year-old Griggs performed autopsies for the Marion County coroner and others.

After learning of the arrest, the Marion County coroner abruptly suspended his contract.

"We won't be calling him to do autopsies with us," said Marion County Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew.

Griggs' wife Katie told Eyewitness News there were no body parts, only small amounts of tissue stored in small plastic containers. She said none of them came from coroner cases, all were from private autopsies, were no longer of any use and were on their way to be cremated.

According to court records, when Brooklyn police pulled Griggs over, he appeared almost too drunk to walk. They found two containers of vodka. One of them one of them was nearly three-fourths empty. A portable breathalyzer test registered a blood-alcohol content of more than .15 percent, nearly twice the legal definition of intoxicated.

Both the Marion and Morgan county coroners said it's common for private pathologists to transport tissue samples in their private vehicles for testing or disposal.

Katie Griggs said her husband "had a very bad day" and "made a very bad choice."

Dr. Griggs is now charged with two counts of driving while intoxicated.

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