Autopsy results still pending for mysterious death

News 12 at 6 o'clock/ August 6, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A 36-year-old man is dead and his grandmother is still in the hospital following a mysterious death Friday.

Two homes on Second Avenue are still being quarantined while the coroner waits for the autopsy results. They're afraid some sort of chemical or material in the home may have caused all of this.

Essie Hobbs can't seem to forget the scene she"saw next door.

"I had nightmares from it. I really did," she said,

Her neighbor, Walton Peterson, was found dead in his grandmother's house. Just hours later, Peterson's grandmother collapsed on the floor, sweating profusely and in an obvious state of confusion.

The coroner called in hazmat crews after he smelled a strange musty chemical odor in the home.

Hobbs says she smelled it too. "We were sitting on the porch Sunday, and when the wind blew, you could get the smell," she says.

The deputy coroner called the GBI Friday morning from the scene to arrange to send the body to Atlanta for an autopsy as soon as possible. But, he says they didn't answer his call.

"He attempted about 4 times between 6 p.m.-8 p.m. and couldn't get an answer," Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen said.

So, they decided to send the body to a lab in Newberry, South Carolina. The Newberry lab is a private lab that costs about $1,000 every time GBI falls through. This year, they've sent about 11 bodies to Newberry, which adds up to about $11,000 worth of autopsies. Sending a body to the GBI lab in Atlanta is free, aside from about $500 dollars to transport the body.

"We weren't sure when the GBI was going to call us back, and it was on Friday, and if they did call us back, they'd probably roll it to Saturday or Monday," Bowen said.

Until the autopsy results come back from Newberry, proving what killed Peterson, both houses on 2nd Avenue are quarantined and considered unlivable. That means a grandmother, who just lost her grandson, is homeless until then, and neighbors, like Hobbs, are left wondering what killed their friend.

"It could be in the air. You don't know what you're inhaling," she said.

We're told GBI did call the coroner back around 10:00 that morning, after they'd already made plans to send the body to Newberry.

As for the grandmother, she's still in the hospital, expected to be released Thursday. Her niece says she'll be staying at a nursing home until they figure out what is wrong with her home.

Toxicology results should take 2 to 3 weeks to come in.

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