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Uncertainty surrounds cause of Jefferson City man’s death

The cause of a Jefferson City man’s death is raising questions after an obituary from Millard Family Chapels said it was the result of a tornado that touched down May 22.

John Freeman, 61, was admitted to Capital Region Medical Center the same night and died May 26.

Lt. David Williams, with the Jefferson City Police Department, and Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler told ABC 17 News that at no time did either of their departments receive any information that would indicate the cause of Freeman’s death was the result of injuries from the storm.

Most recently, Williams reiterated the department’s position in an email Sunday:

“Our position has not changed as it relates to fatalities resulting from the Tornado. We have been contacted by several people as it results to Mr. Freeman. We have not been given any information to confirm the statements in his obituary but by no means can we control the family or the funeral home in their publication.
We cannot confirm any deaths as a result of the storm. Understanding that you have a responsibility to your audience, I cannot help with this story.

I will include Sheriff Wheeler in this response as Heritage Highway and any “responding officer” to that location would have been under his command. I of course would be interested in knowing who the responding officer was, so they could share the same information with me.”

Cole County Emergency Medical Services Director Matt Lindewirth said Cole County EMS did not transport anyone with critical injuries in the aftermath of the storm. The ambulance service does not track patients after they are hospitalized, he said.

Houser Millard Funeral directors in Jefferson City told ABC 17 News Monday that the information published in its obituaries comes directly from the family members of the deceased.

Capital Region Medical Center would not disclose the official cause of Freeman’s death, citing HIPAA.

A close relative of Freeman told ABC 17 News the 61-year-old suffered a broken leg when the storm destroyed his trailer. The relative said that a complication during a subsequent surgery resulted in Freeman’s death.

The relative also asked anyone wishing to offer support to the family, to donate in John’s name to Friends of the Jefferson City Animal Shelter. The organization supports the facility from which Freeman adopted Daisy, his dog that also perished as a result of the storm.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was changed to correct comments made by EMS Director Matt Lindewirth.

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