Lawyers battling over whether Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos are public record were told by a judge that an Oak Hill man may have copies of some of the pictures.
Circuit Judge Joseph Will said in a letter Wednesday to lawyers for both Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt's widow, and The Orlando Sentinel that his office received an anonymous phone call from someone claiming that Timothy Campbell had some of the photos in his house.
The caller said Campbell planned to distribute the photographs, Will's letter noted. The judge ordered police to Campbell's home, located roughly 27 miles south of Daytona Beach.
Medical Examiner: Photo Could Be Fake
Campbell told Volusia County Sheriff's deputies that he had one photo but kept it for sentimental reasons and never intended to make it public. Police did not take the photo from the home, Campbell said.
Campbell said he obtained the photo from a friend who got it from an unidentified worker at the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office. Campbell may be charged with a crime if the photo was stolen from the office, Sheriff's detective Steve White said.
Medical examiner Thomas Beaver said the photo might be a fake, saying that the actual autopsy photographs were taken with a digital camera, saved on a compact disk and sealed in a vault.
Newspaper Doesn’t Want Campbell Photo
Sentinel attorney David Bralow told Will that his client contacted Campbell but stressed that the newspaper "would refrain … from looking at this autopsy photograph, and we're as good as our word."
Dale Earnhardt died in a crash Feb. 18 at the Daytona 500. Teresa Earnhardt sued Volusia County four days later to stop release of the medical examiner's photos. The next day, a Sentinel reporter made a public-records request for the pictures.
Will agreed Wednesday to delay a hearing on the photo requests until March 19. Legislation aimed at exempting autopsy photos and videos from Florida's public records law is scheduled to be heard on the state House floor the same week.
Sentinel Editor Tim Franklin has said repeatedly that the newspaper has no intention of publishing the photos but wants to view them so that a head trauma expert can make an independent determination of the cause of death.