— The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it will not seek criminal charges against the head of the Oklahoma medical examiner who found the body of a missing woman, saying that the process had been mishandled.
The decision by Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Republican, also comes amid a controversy over the manner in which a coroner’s office concluded the cause of death of Ashley J. Brown, 43, who had gone missing Nov. 22.
In a statement released Wednesday, the DOJ said it would not press criminal charges and would instead investigate the matter with the help of an outside agency.
“I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges,” Ashcroft said in a statement.
“The Department has concluded that the investigation of the death of Ms. Brown was handled appropriately, and I will not take further action.”
Ashcroft’s statement came hours after the Tulsa County Coroner’s Office said it found Brown’s body at her home, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from where she had gone.
The death of Brown, who was found unconscious in a closet with her hair pulled back, has been called a homicide.
A toxicology report showed the cause was hypothermia.
Authorities said the cause and manner of death could not be determined.
Brown disappeared after leaving her home in the Tulsa suburb of Tulsa, a city of about 11,000 about 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City.
Brown’s boyfriend, Anthony Darnell Smith, has pleaded not guilty to her murder and is awaiting trial.
Smith, who is free on bond, was arrested earlier this year on charges related to Brown’s death.
His trial has been scheduled to begin in January.
Brown had not been seen or heard from since she left her home.
Her boyfriend has said he was in the process of getting a restraining order against Smith, but he has not responded to messages left with him.
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death as a homicide and said it could not confirm or deny the cause.
The coroner’s department is also investigating.
A statement from Tulsa Mayor Pete Buttigieg said that Brown’s family was working to get answers.
“We are committed to finding justice for Ashley and her family and will continue to do so,” Buttigigieg’s statement said.
“Tulsa is proud of the many resources and efforts we have put in to this case, and we are grateful for the assistance of the Tulsa Police Department.”
Brown’s case has drawn national attention, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Fox News’ Megyn Kelly each appearing on the “Anderson Cooper 360” program on CNN to discuss the case.
Brown is the second person to die from hypothermic exposure to date.
The first was a man found dead at his home in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 26, 2012.
Police said he died of hypothermal cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart is unable to contract as it should.
The man’s body was found in a bedroom after he was reported missing.
In the early 2000s, an autopsy revealed that the cause could have been carbon monoxide poisoning, but it did not result in the deaths of two people.
That case, involving a man who had been shot in the chest, was ruled a suicide.