Gwinnett officially opens $5.7M morgue and medical examiner’s office

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Ribbon cutting for new Gwinnett morgue and medical examiner's office

Dr. Carol Terry, Gwinnett County’s chief medical examiner, is always quick with a joke.

And she had no shortage of material on Tuesday afternoon, a joyous one when the county officially opened its new, $5.7 million morgue and medical examiner’s office.

“I’ve heard that some have questioned why such a facility is needed,” Terry, who’s been in her current role since 2006, said to a crowd of gathered dignitaries. “Anyone who would ask that question obviously never visited the old morgue. Anyone who saw the old morgue would realize that it was better suited to be a staging area for some movie from the ‘Saw’ franchise.”

She was kidding. Kind of.

Gwinnett’s old morgue was a 1,000-square-foot room at police headquarters. The medical examiner’s office was in a separate, cramped building about a mile away.

The new facility folds both functions into a single 15,000-square-foot building on Hurricane Shoals Road near Lawrenceville.

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Gwinnett County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Terry, second from left, was joined by other officials during a Tuesday afternoon ribbon-cutting at the county's new morgue and medical examiner's facility.

Gwinnett County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Terry, second from left, was joined by other officials during a Tuesday afternoon ribbon-cutting at the county's new morgue and medical examiner's facility.

Combined ShapeCaption
Gwinnett County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carol Terry, second from left, was joined by other officials during a Tuesday afternoon ribbon-cutting at the county's new morgue and medical examiner's facility.

It has three autopsy stations and 50 cold storage units. The old location had one station and room for just four decedents — striking numbers considering that the medical examiner’s office handled more than 1,600 cases in 2016.

The new building also includes a “light-filled lobby,” a conference room complete with a children’s area and an outdoor “respite” area.

“It can gracefully and very importantly accommodate the relatives and friends of the deceased at a very difficult time in their lives,” county administrator Glenn Stephens said.

The facility was paid for by 2014 SPLOST funds. It was designed by Precision Planning and built by McKnight Construction Company.

“While we may not have wandered 40 years in the wilderness,” Terry said Tuesday, “I feel like we have reached the Promised Land.”

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