NEW ORLEANS - Brenisha Hall's family wants justice. The 25-year-old transgender woman went into a coma after she was injected with black market silicone on Oct. 24.
She remained hospitalized at LSU Interim Public Hospital until she died on New Year's Day.
The transgender pageant queen is accused of injecting Hall, Armani Nicole Davenport, has been charged with negligent injury, but she could face more serious charges for Hall's death.
“It's been hell. It's a nightmare,” said Hall’s sister, Lashey.
But even more of a nightmare for Hall's family is what happened after her death.
Hall's family believes the hospital dropped the ball because it failed to treat Hall's death as part of a criminal investigation, leading to a mix-up that could hurt the case.
“Everyone in the hospital knew this was a crime situation,” said Lashey Hall.
Hospital officials should have called the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office to do an autopsy because that's where the alleged crime happened.
Instead, hospital officials called the Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office, because that's where Hall lived.
Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich said he was not notified that there was a criminal investigation into the case, so he released the death as natural. Hall's body was never transferred to his forensic center, said Cvitanovich, so he never physically saw the body.
Hall's mother requested an autopsy, and a pathologist at the hospital performed it.
“The autopsy itself done by LSU was done by Dr. Bill Newman who is an outstanding pathologist. He and his department do autopsies in certain cases for several different coroner's offices, so I really see no harm whatsoever being done by him doing the autopsy instead of the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office,” said Cvitanovich.
Cvitanovich said there would not be toxicology tests, because Hall has been in the hospital for months and undergone several blood transfusions. Instead, officials would look at possible tissue damage caused by silicone injections.
Cvitanovich said he knew about the silicone injections when he released the death as natural. He remains confident the autopsy was thoroughly performed, even though the pathologist apparently didn’t know about the criminal investigation.
“For someone to die of [toxins] and be called natural no way possible any type of substance or toxic is natural,” said Lashey Hall.
New Orleans police didn't realize Hall had died until 10 days later, when a news reporter alerted them. Hall was buried one day later, on Jan. 11.
Hall’s mother, Lessie, said she repeatedly called the New Orleans police detective initially assigned to the case to alert him to Hall’s death.
She later learned that detective suffered a heart attack in November, and a new detective was assigned to the case. She questions why she was never alerted to the change.
The Orleans Parish Coroner's Office has since taken over the case but police say the hospital has yet to turn over its records for a death classification investigation.
Until the medical records are received and reviewed by the coroner's office it is premature to say if the case has been impacted either way, according to a New Orleans Police spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Hall's family is awaiting the autopsy results and hoping for answers.
Lessie Hall is looking into suing the NOPD and University Hospital.
A hospital official did not return our call seeking comment.