The Strange Case of a Man Declared Dead by Three Doctors Who Awakened Just Before His Autopsy
Spanish prison officials were perplexed when a prisoner who had been ruled dead by three different doctors awoke in the mortuary just hours before his own autopsy was scheduled to begin.
Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez, then 29, was discovered lifeless in his cell during a morning roll call on 7 January 2018 and was brought to a hospital mortuary in a body bag after pathologists overheard anything unusual.
Snoring. Coming from the bag’s interior.
Jiménez, who was serving a prison sentence for robbery in the maximum security wing of Asturias Central Penitentiary in northwest Spain, was initially treated by two prison physicians after being discovered asleep in a chair in his cell with no evidence of violence.
Due to the absence of vital signs, the doctors declared him dead, and an hour later, a forensic doctor examined the body, confirmed the initial evaluations, and issued a third death certificate.
Physicians discovered anything was gravely wrong only later at the morgue.
Jiménez had already spent time in a cold storage room to aid in the preservation of his body, and his skin had been marked with scalpel guidelines in preparation for his impending autopsy — at which point the erroneous corpse awoke.
“Forensic examiners began to hear noises emanating from the bag. Montoya was not mortally wounded. Quite the contrary, “El Espaol reported.
“The forensic [pathologist]proceeded to open the bag and found the inmate still alive.”
Jiménez was then moved under guard in an ambulance to another hospital to recover from his mysterious episode, and was eventually declared to be in stable health — but jail authorities appear to have no idea how the mix-up occurred in the first place.
“I can’t comment on what happened at the Institute of Legal Medicine,” a representative for the Spanish Prison Service told the press, “but three doctors have seen clinical signs of death so it’s still not clear at the moment exactly why this occurred.”
Jiménez complained of feeling poorly the day before he was discovered ‘dead,’ and while the reason of his condition remained unknown, investigators characterized his corpse as having evidence of cyanosis – a purplish coloring of the skin caused by poor circulation or a lack of oxygen – in addition to rigor mortis.
According to hospital officials, the faux fatality may have been a case of catalepsy, a condition in which the body enters a trance or seizure-like state, resulting in a loss of consciousness and sensation, as well as physical rigidity.
It is unknown how Jiménez became cataleptic, but he has epilepsy and is on medicine for it — but his family stated that it was not always possible for Jiménez to keep to his prescription regimen while incarcerated, which could have played a role.
In the hospital, it took 24 hours for Jiménez to regain consciousness and begin speaking, which physicians described as a positive sign.
When the’dead guy’ awoke, he requested to visit his wife.
This article was originally published in January 2018.