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Pressure and problems mount on county coroner

BROWN COUNTY, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- Officials in Brown County say they hear about concerns from residents every day on the way the county coroner, Doctor Judith Varnau is doing her job.

We've been telling you about the battle between the coroner and the sheriff's office for months.  Earlier this week a family filed a lawsuit against Varnau due to the way she handled the death of a loved one.

Brown County Commissioners say complaints about Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau are an almost daily occurrence.

Commissioner Daryll Gray tells us, "Basically any time you go out you run into people in the community asking what's going on?  What we're gonna do about it, commissioners can't do anything about it. She's an elected official. The people put her in there so the people gonna have to get her out."

Since sheriff's officials have been unable to reach agreement with the coroner on proper policy and procedure the Brown County prosecutor feels compelled to call in state BCI investigators whenever the coroner requests an investigation.

Prosecutor Jessica Little says, "There are some unique circumstances that we have in Brown County at this time and that leaves me in the interest of justice to have state level involvement at this time. It's not due to any lack of confidence in the sheriff's office."

Dr. Varnau didn't want to talk with us on camera but she told me she is concerned about the situation.  And there's more.

The night of February 14th in all the ice and snow, after deputies checked out the dead body of Samuel Wise, Dr. Varnau responded to the possible suicide scene near Hamersville.  The coroner had to wait 7 hours for BCI investigators to get there.  And when she removed the body, Brown County officials say she did it in the back of a pick up truck.

When I asked Dr. Varnau on the phone about using a pickup truck to transport a dead body , she initially didn't want to talk about it.  However, she went on to tell me it was a situation where the roads were treacherous and you could only go about 25 miles an hour.

County officials worry that there may come a time when state officials say they've had enough of Brown County's problems.

Commissioner Gray said, "There may come a time when BCI won't come back down here because we're using them pretty heavy."

Prosecutor Jessica Little tells us that in the interest of justice she very much appreciates the fact that Attorney General Mike DeWine and the investigators at BIC are willing to help the citizens of Brown County.

Follow Rich Jaffe on Twitter @rajaffe and LIKE him on Facebook

VIDEO HERE
 

 

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