Mesa County Coroner "ahead of the game"

By: Christy Dimond Email
By: Christy Dimond Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- A bill on its way through the State Senate would impact the duties of coroners statewide and enable coroners to arrive on the scene of a death sooner.

House Bill 1097 would require law enforcement officers to make all reasonable efforts to allow the coroner to gather time-sensitive information, such as body and scene temperature.

Mesa County Deputy Coroner Kim Hollingshead said having this ability is crucial for performing an accurate death investigation.

“Once death occurs, things start to change with the body, so we need to be able to identify that,” he said. “Oftentimes, there are things at a scene that need to be collected that law enforcement is responsible for collecting. If we have the ability to see that before it’s collected and understand where it is in relation to the body, that’s very helpful.”

The bill also repeals a current statute allowing a coroner to request a physician perform a scientific examination, rather than the coroner.

Hollingshead said Mesa County is ahead of the game due the relationship between the coroner’s office and area law enforcement.

“They almost always call us immediately upon arrival at the scene and making it safe, and that’s what the house bill says,” Hollingshead said. “It’s the law enforcement’s responsibility to provide scene safety, and it’s our responsibilities as coroners to assist law enforcement with the investigation of a suspicious death.”

The bill also outlines additional duties for coroners, such as taking possession of a suicide note if present, taking custody of any prescription medications found with the body, and reporting each child fatality to the Department of Human Services and the county Department of Social Services.

Hollingshead said he and Dean Havlik, Mesa County Coroner, are already doing each of those proposed responsibilities.

The bill passed its second Senate reading today and is awaiting final approval.

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