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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Parents of Man Found Dead on Bus Want Answers. Medical Examiner Has None.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Christopher Feasel, in happier days
  • Christopher Feasel, in happier days
In the wee hours of Oct. 17 of last year, Muni cleanup crews discovered 37-year-old Christopher Feasel's body slumped in the back of a 5-Fulton bus. It was a tragic conclusion to Feasel's tragic life; after graduating from college and getting married, he'd spent the better part of a decade stumbling through a life of addiction and homelessness. Nearly five months later, Feasel's parents are hoping to find out what killed their son. But, they say, the San Francisco Medical Examiner has been giving them an unsatisfying answer: We're busy.

"They keep saying things like 'We don't have enough people working,' and 'Everything's backed up,'" said Feasel's mother, Marion, of Sarasota, Fla. "It's always something. And it's been five months."

Feasel's autopsy took place on Oct. 19. But, according to the Medical Examiner's office, his cause of death remains undetermined. "We do a thorough forensic investigation on all cases," said Steve Gelman, the office's administrator. "The time varies. It can be anywhere from several days, several weeks, or can sometimes take longer."

Sometimes, in fact, it takes much longer. As this 2008 SF Weekly cover story reported, sometimes causes of death remain undetermined for years. The Feasel family's woes may just be starting.  

"The whole circumstances of him being on the bus, the bus being parked at 6:30 at night and the cleaning crew found him after midnight -- what did he die of? When did he die?" said Harry Feasel, Christopher's father. "In our minds, we're just going crazy with this."

The last the Feasels heard, some "toxicology reports" were pending. But that was some time ago. Like most people who've gotten a call that their only son has died of unknown causes 3,000 miles away, they're not veterans of this process. They don't know what to expect. But they thought they'd have had some resolution long, long ago.

Gelman says that sometimes things just take a long time -- and he was shocked that any of his colleagues would use the "we're understaffed" or "we're overloaded" excuse both Feasels explicity claim they've been given. "I can't imagine anybody would have said that," he says. "Sometimes people hear different things. I'm sure they were told the case is under investigation and everything that needs to be done will be done."

Perhaps. But "The case is under investigation and everything that needs to be done will be done," doesn't sound a whole lot like "We don't have enough people working" or "Everything's backed up" to you, does it?

When asked the last time they'd seen their son, Marion Feasel initially answered "several years ago." She then thought better of that response.

"It was

actually October 22, 2009.  He was at the crematory and we had one hour with

him before he was cremated," she said. "He looked fabulous ... and I am so sorry for all

the pain  and sorrow he had to endure in the life he lived."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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