Family working with TN lawmakers to make changes to allow review on death certificates

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A Tri-Cities family hopes the death of their daughter will lead to a change in state law.

“It’s her legacy,” said Dawn Stallsmith. “It’s how she lived her life and I want the truth told.”

In the summer of 2018, Stallsmith said her daughter, 21-year-old Caylyn Hall, was home alone while her parents were on vacation.

Hall was in the hiring process with the Johnson City Police Department, but also worked at Pal’s Restaurant. 

A friend had stopped by to pick up some work uniforms, and that is when the friend noticed Caylyn’s gun on the table.

Video from a home surveillance camera given to New Channel 11 by the Stallsmith family shows the two handling the firearm before it discharged, killing Caylyn. 

Her mother claims it was an accident, but when she received her daughter’s death certificate, it was deemed a suicide.

“When I got that determination of an opinion, I’m like how can this be,” said Stallsmith. “We have video, we have the police saying it’s an accident, we have an eyewitness.”

She learned shortly after there was no way to have the determination on the certificate reviewed. 

“I thought I cannot just let this go,” said Stallsmith, “I can’t just stand by and let something be said about my daughter that is not true.”

Dawn started researching a bill passed a few years back to deal with issues like this, but found there were major missing pieces.

She is now working with Rep. Micah Van Huss to make changes to the law.

The new legislation being introduced is SB0620 and HB1005

One change Stallsmith is advocating for is the ability to get a second opinion from medical examiners.

“That opinion means so much to a family and there should be checks and balances for anyone,” she said, “but especially in our medical profession.”

Stallsmith would also like to have the ability to appeal death certificate rulings before a court and would like to leave any determination of suicide off a death certificate until a final conclusion is reached.

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