County Coroner's Office
Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
The Jefferson County Coroner's Office is open Monday - Friday from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm, excluding holidays; however, someone is on call 24/7/365. If someone calls during non-business hours, the phone lines are connected to the 9-1-1 Dispatcher Center and they will need to ask to speak to the "Coroner on Call" and someone will return their call.
Duties of The Coroner
View the body and pronounce the subject dead. Arkansas State Law 42-1212 states that when a person dies under the following circumstances or as a result of the following causes the Coroner must be notified:
- Accidental deaths (See Item 9 Letter H Number 3 for Description).
- Death of a patient that occurs within five days of admission to the hospital from a long-term care facility.
- Homicide deaths (See Item 9 Letter H Number 1 for Description).
- Suicidal deaths (See Item 9 Letter H Number 2 for Description).
- Deaths due to abortions, criminal mischief or self-induced.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (More commonly known as “SIDS” is the major cause of death of an infant after the first month of the child’s life) any death of an infant where there is doubt to the cause of death.
- Sudden deaths if the death occurs when the person is in good health or if the death occurs in a suspicious or unusual manner. Some of these would include:
- Sudden death at home, on the street, in a public place or place of employment
- Death as a result of an injury at work or if the death can be linked to the type of work the victim is performing
- All deaths occurring within 24 hours of admission to the hospital unless the patient has been under the care of a physician for a natural disease, which resulted in death.
- Dead on arrival to the emergency room of a hospital
Any death where there is doubt or suspicion the Coroner must:
- Determine the disposition of the body: The exact location of the body at the time of death is essential and should be carefully documented.
- Collect evidence: Anything that is on the body at the time of death.
- Examine the body: Determine the exact location of the body as well as any injury or abnormality to the body.
- Record and document: Document the location of the body, the clothing, the environment (the temperature inside or outside), injury/abnormality to the body, time pronounced dead, law enforcement on scene, possible medications the decedent might have taken, the list time the decedent was seen alive and the next of kin’s name.
- Photograph the body as well as the scene: The scene environment affects the body’s post-mortem changes. It is important to document the temperature, amount of moisture, air movement and lighting in the area where the body is found. The type of surface upon which the victim is resting will also affect the amount of body heat lost. In the event the body will be autopsied by the medical examiner or privately, one must be careful in handling the victim and the attached clothing so that any evidence will remain on them.
- Relay necessary information to law enforcement: Advise the investigating agency of findings such as the number of wounds/injuries and medical history.
- Notify the pertinent authorities.
- Determine the cause and manner of death: For the purpose of signing death certificates and explaining the cause to the next of kin. This determination deals with the legal implications superimposed on biological and mechanism of death:
- Homicide: Someone else causes the victim’s death; whether by intention (robber shoots store clerk) or criminal negligence (drunk driving going 55 mph on Cherry Street runs a red light at 28th Street and strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk). After the forensic determination is made, it may of course be altered as a result of a grand jury or other legal inquiry. For example, when one child shoots another. The forensic examination may conclude from the body that homicide was the manner of death, but after considering all the forensic evidence, a grand jury may conclude the gun discharge accidentally.
- Suicide: The victim caused his/her own death on purpose. This may not always be straightforward. For instance, a victim may strangle himself accidentally during autoerotic behavior (apparently some people find a certain amount of hypoxia very stimulating). If the examiner were not to consider the evidence (such as erotic literature found near the body), an incorrect determine of “suicide by hanging” might be made. This error may be financially disastrous for the victim’s survivors, since many life insurance policies do not forward benefits when the insured is a suicide. Also, in some cultures suicide is a social stigma or a sin against its deity.
- Accidental: In this manner of death, the individual falls victim to a hostile environment. Some degree of human negligence may be involved in accidental deaths, but the magnitude of the negligence falls short of that reasonably expected in negligent homicide. Whereas the negligence of the speeding drunk above would be considered gross by a reasonable observer, a pedestrian killed at the same intersection by a sober driver, not speeding or running a red light, would be reasonably be considered a victim of accidental death.
- Natural Causes: Here the victim dies in the absence of an environment reasonably considered hostile to human life. Most bodies referred for forensic examination represent this manner of death.
- Secure property: Take into custody personal property that was found on the decedent at the time of death for safekeeping until releasing to next of kin at a later date.
- Notify the next of kin and making positive identification: This may be done in various methods that include:
- Visually (From photographs, etc.)
- Dental and/or medical records
- Scars, tattoos and/or marks
- Personal papers and/or documents
- Clothing and/or jewelry
- Remove fluids (Blood, Urine and Vitreous) for toxicological studies: This is done for the purpose of determining if the person was possibly poisoned, had drugs/alcohol in their system or if carbon monoxide might have played a part in the death.
Keep complete records of all deaths within Jefferson County: This includes the Coroner’s Report, photographs, medical records and the law enforcement agency that is in conjunction investigating.
Sign all legal documents: If, after conducting an investigation, the Coroner is satisfied the death is not the result of a crime and knows to a reasonable certainty the cause and manner of death, then the Coroner shall proceed to execute a death certificate in the form and manner required by law and release the body for final disposition.
Coordinate information for families: This includes reviewing autopsy results with families when received and advising of findings during the investigation.
Testify in court: This typically is done in homicide and accidental death cases in regard to the results of the investigation done by the Coroner.
Protect the privacy of the death.
Locate the deceased person’s family members: This will sometimes involve using local law enforcement agencies that are working with the Coroner on the investigation, as well as out of state law enforcement agencies.
Notification of the news media: When notifying the news media, this is done after the next of kin has been notified and advised of the death.
Counseling of families: As previously stated above, this includes reviewing the autopsy results with the next of kin, explaining the cause of death and explaining the cause.
Public Service: This involves in the winter months putting information in the local newspaper regarding hypothermia as well as the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. During the summer months the signs of heat stroke and water safety, due to the large numbers of people being around swimming pools, the rivers and lakes.
Community Programs: Give programs to various churches, organizations, college classes regarding the signs of suicide, the dangers of drugs/alcohol and educating on the workings of the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.
Junior and Senior High School Programs:
- Being Careful (Think Before You Act!)
- Alcohol and Drugs
- Suicidal Prevention
- Auto Safety
These are all programs that are given in the effort to educate the young people of this county about the dangers of alcohol/drugs, being aware of their friends and any possible changes in their behavior that may indicate they are thinking of suicide, and the importance of being responsible when learning to drive an automobile.