Vail Daily letter: What the coroner does

Hello, I am Kara Bettis, your Eagle County coroner for 12 years. With my on-the-job experience I would like to respond to the letter published Tuesday about the coroner’s job and what it involves. I would like to correct and add current information to this letter.

Where did the coroner’s role come from:

In Colorado, the Coroner position has been elected since 1954 according to Article XIV of the Colorado Constitution.

The Coroner does not arrest the sheriff. The coroner shall act as the sheriff (Colorado State Statue 30-10-604, 605) “when there is no sheriff in the county, it is the duty of the coroner to exercise all the powers and duties of the sheriff … until another sheriff is appointed or elected. If sheriff is committed to jail the coroner shall be the keeper of the jail during the time the sheriff remains a prisoner.”

What are the qualifications to be a Colorado county coroner?

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“To run for county coroner, a person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and a residence of the county for one year prior to an election. (Colorado State Statue 30-10-601.8) Coroner candidates need to possess knowledge and experience in the medical-legal investigation of death. Coroners are also encouraged by state law to participate in programs that provide education and training in death investigation,” according to the blue book analysis of Referendum C.

I am a certified death investigator with the state of Colorado.

What does the county coroner do?

Well, unless you are the coroner, most people don’t know exactly what the coroner responsibilities are. My main job is to determine cause and manner of death. I declare time and pronouncement of death. I work as a team with law enforcement to investigate the scene, which entails collecting and securing evidence. I identify the deceased, notify the next of kin, and issue a death certificate. The coroner shall perform a forensic autopsy or have a forensic autopsy performed when one is required (Colorado State Statue 30-10-606.5). I hire and work with many forensic pathologists. I take the findings of the autopsy and determine what the cause and manner of death is. I also take appropriate measures to safeguard the property/estate of the deceased. The Coroner’s Office must keep statistical information for the state departments. Also as a coroner, I can call for a coroner’s inquest and summon six citizens of the county to hear testimony on a case as deemed appropriate (Colorado State Statue30-10-606).

The job of coroner involves more than declaring a person dead. The coroner needs to have on-the-job experience, in addition to knowledge, appropriate training, and certification in death investigation. Basic medical background in unrelated fields is not enough to be successful as a coroner. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding what the position of coroner entails by visiting my website

“The only source of knowledge is experience” — Albert Einstein.

Kara Bettis

Eagle County coroner

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