A few years ago, Spanish prison authorities were rather bewildered after a prisoner who had been pronounced dead by three separate doctors woke up in the morgue – just hours before his own autopsy was to begin.
The prisoner, Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez, then 29, was found unconscious in his cell during a morning roll call on January 7, 2018 and had been transferred to a hospital morgue in a body bag when pathologists heard something strange.
Snoring. Coming from inside the bag.
Jiménez, who was serving a sentence for theft in the maximum security wing of the Central Penitentiary in Asturias, northwestern Spain, was initially treated by two doctors on duty in the prison, after being found sat unconscious on a chair in his cell, with no signs of the abuse being evident.
Detecting no vital signs, doctors pronounced him dead and an hour later a medical examiner inspected the body, confirmed initial assessments and issued a third death report.
It wasn’t until later at the morgue that the doctors realized something was seriously wrong.
By this point, Jiménez had already spent time in a cold room to help preserve his body, and his skin had been scarred with scalpel guidelines in preparation for his impending autopsy — at which point the mistaken corpse suddenly stirred. .
“The medical examiners began to hear noises coming from inside the bag. Montoya was not dead. Quite the contrary,” reported El Español at the time.
“The medical examiner [pathologist] opened the bag and found the inmate still alive.”
Jiménez was then transferred under guard in an ambulance to another hospital to recover from his mysterious episode, and was eventually reported to be in stable condition – but as to how the confusion could have arisen in the first place, the prison authorities apparently had no idea.
“I cannot comment on what happened at the Institute of Forensic Medicine,” a spokesperson for the Spanish prison service told the media, “but three doctors saw clinical signs of death, so it is not known. still not sure exactly why this happened.”
The day before Jiménez was found ‘dead’, he complained of feeling unwell and, although it was unclear what caused his condition, officials described his body as showing signs cyanosis — a purplish discoloration of the skin caused by poor circulation or lack of oxygen — in addition to rigor mortis.
Hospital officials told Spanish media that the fake fatality could be a case of catalepsy, in which the body goes into a trance or convulsive state, exhibiting loss of consciousness and sensation, as well as rigidity. physical.
It is unclear how Jiménez became cataleptic, although the prisoner suffered from epilepsy and took medication for the condition — but his family say it was not always easy for Jiménez to stick to his schedule drugs in custody, so it might have had something to do with it.
In hospital, it took 24 hours before Jiménez regained consciousness in intensive care and started talking, which doctors said was a good sign.
When the “dead” woke up, he asked if he could see his wife.