While they do deal with death every day, the job of a deputy coroner actually has a lot to do with the living. “We provide the families with the answers as of why their loved one died,” said …
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While they do deal with death every day, the job of a deputy coroner actually has a lot to do with the living.
“We provide the families with the answers as of why their loved one died,” said Gordon Johnson, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office’s senior investigator. “I enjoy helping the families who really appreciate what we do.”
The duties of the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office are far-ranging, but its main tasks are to identify the cause and manner of death when a death is not attended by a physician, identify a dead person, determine the next of kinand notify them of the death.
They do this 24/7, 365 days a year.
The Jeffco coroner’s office does it with a staff of 20 — one elected official; one chief deputy coroner; 10 fulltime deputy coroners, also known as investigators; three part-time investigators; two contracted forensic pathologists who have one assistant; and two front office staff.
However, the coroner’s office works closely with law enforcement, and sometimes local anthropologists, forensic dentists, DNA specialists and, on occasion, a forensic sculptor.
Often, it’s the coroner’s office that “conducts a person’s last medical evaluation,” said Dan Pruett, the chief deputy coroner. “We take pride in that it’s done properly.”
Last year, the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office had about 1,200 death cases that they assumed jurisdiction on, Johnson said. Most of the cases they handle are medical related, versus criminal such as homicide, but the office does take care of both, Johnson said.
The deputy coroners are the information-gatherers, Pruett said. They respond to a death scene, gather any necessary evidence and write a coroner’s report. The report is then provided to Pruett, who reads it and then determines the next steps, such as deciding if an autopsy need to be performed, for example.
The deputy coroners are also the ones who do the death notifications to the family, Johnson said. Often this is done by way of an in-person visit to the family’s home — no matter what time of day or night it is, he added.
“As coroner, I am here to advocate and be the voice of the decedent,” said Annette Cannon, who was sworn into office as the county coroner this January. “This team has been wonderful to work with. They’re professional and ethical, dedicated and committed. They do high-quality work.”
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