Man's death ruled to be from natural causes until funeral home finds stab wounds

A medical examiner's investigator in Gwinnett County, Georgia, was disciplined after she listed the cause of a man's death incorrectly twice.

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WSB-TV learned the investigator listed Ray Neal's death as being due to natural causes when he had actually been stabbed several times.

"There's no way. It was too much blood," said Neal's sister, Michelle Smalls.

The first officer to arrive at Neal's Lexington Drive duplex also found it suspicious, writing in a report, "I observed a large amount of blood on the bed and underneath Ray Neal. I also observed blood on the walls in the bathroom and on the shower curtain."

But because Neal had several known illnesses, including hepatitis C, the investigator apparently believed the blood loss was part of his natural death.

"She was in. She went in all of 10 minutes and said it was natural causes. The funeral home director came to pick him up. When he walked in, he said, 'This is something totally different than what they said,''" Smalls said.

Investigators said they found stab wounds on Monday, and the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Police said the two-day delay hasn't hurt their investigation much.

"We were aware of the situation prior to getting that final classification from the medical examiner's office," said Cpl. Michele Pihera.

Neither the police nor Neal's family has any idea who might have killed the 61-year-old.

"Whomever did this, he knew them because he wouldn't let just anyone into his home," Pihera said.

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