February 1, 2004
Examiners don't agree
Whether body was moved before death at issueBy
Record-Eagle staff writer
BEULAH - Benzie County's medical examiner said he's surprised to learn another medical examiner disputed his assessment of an Oakland County woman's death.
No one has been charged in the death of Florence Unger, who was found face down Oct. 25 in Lower Herring Lake, but authorities in Benzie and Oakland counties have called Unger's husband, Mark Unger, a suspect.
At a recent hearing about Mark Unger's parental rights, prosecutors said Oakland County Medical Examiner Lljubisa Dragovic determined the woman, who died of trauma to her head after she fell from a boathouse onto concrete, was alive when her body was moved into the lake.
That contradicts a determination made by Benzie County Medical Examiner Matthew Houghton, who said he believes Unger was dead before her body was moved into the lake.
Houghton said no water was found in Florence Unger's lungs and there was no other evidence to suggest she drowned.
"I don't know and that's why we are all absolutely stymied about this," Houghton said of Dragovic's conclusion. "I would love to know what Dragovic is using for his rationale."
Dragovic said he had no comment.
Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Bilkovic said Dragovic determined Florence Unger was alive when someone moved the body and that being in the water accelerated her death. He said he could not comment about how Dragovic reached that conclusion.
Dragovic's premise is important because it would undermine any potential claim that Mark Unger panicked after his wife accidentally fell from the boat house and he moved her into the water to make it appear she drowned, Bilkovic said.
"As ridiculous as that scenario is, I feel it's something that's important and has been ruled out," Bilkovic said.
Michigan Attorney General spokesman Matt Davis said no decision has been made on whether to charge Mark Unger.
Competing medical theories could be fodder for defense attorneys if Mark Unger is charged in her death, but Bilkovic said it would not be difficult for prosecutors to get around.
"Does it present a problem? Yes," Bilkovic said. "But I also think that it's a problem that's very easy to overcome."
Attorney Clarence Gomery, a former Leelanau prosecutor who once won a murder trial that involved Dragovic testifying for the defense, said two competing conclusions from medical examiners could indeed pose a problem for prosecutors if Unger is charged.
"When you've got experts who are disagreeing, it always opens it up for the defendant to say to the jury they haven't proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt," Gomery said.
Earlier this week, an Oakland County judge ruled a jury must decide whether Mark Unger will regain full custody of the couple's two sons in a March 8 trial.
Unger's attorney, Robert Harrison, did not return a message seeking comment.