Mesa County Coroner
The Roles of the Mesa County Coroner’s Office
The Mesa County Coroner’s Office is charged with investigating certain categories of deaths including those that could potentially be from violence, those due to drugs or toxins, deaths that are sudden and unexpected, hospital deaths where the individual died less than 24 hours after admission to the hospital and in-custody deaths, among many others. Not all deaths in the county fall under the jurisdiction of the Mesa County Coroner’s Office. For example, an older person who has a significant natural disease process and dies after an extended stay in a hospital would not be considered a case the Coroner’s Office would investigate. The Mesa County Coroner’s Office acts independently from law enforcement and is it’s “own office” when they do their investigations. The office gains knowledge of each death through scene investigation, interviews with family and witnesses, medical record review and possibly autopsy examination. The Coroner’s Office is responsible for notifying the next of kin of their loved one’s death, helping with the disposition the deceased individual and signing the death certificate on many of the deaths they investigate. The Mesa County Coroner’s Office is the entity that ultimately determines the cause and manner of death in the cases they have involvement.
Services Provided by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office
The Mesa County Coroner’s Offices is responsible for ensuring the death certificates are signed appropriately for the deaths they investigate. This could either mean signing the death certificate themselves or consulting with the decedent’s physician to assist them in the most logical way to sign the certificate. A certain level of medical knowledge is expected by the Mesa County Coroners’ Office when signing the certificates and when discussing the deaths with physicians, physician office staff and the families of the deceased. In addition to the death certificate, each death investigated by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office should have a report detailing the investigators findings and conclusions. While in office, Dr. Havlik began publishing annual reports, special suicide reports and drug-related death reports. These types of reports are important for statistical analyses, research and for public information use. The performance of autopsies is probably one of the most important aspects of any Coroner’s Office. It is the offices responsibility to ensure the autopsies are conducted in a quality manner and follow all the national standards with timely completion of autopsy results and autopsy reports. During the entirety of Dr. Havlik’s tenure as the elected Mesa County Coroner, the autopsies were conducted locally in Mesa County using local Mesa County citizens as employees, using local facilities for the performance of autopsies and laboratory studies and using local board-certified pathologists. After Dr. Havlik was term limited from office in 2019, the new Coroner (not a forensic pathologist) outsourced the services to others that are not Mesa County citizens.
Responsibilities of the Mesa County Coroner
The elected Coroner is expected to maintain a competent staff of medicolegal death investigators and is the person responsible for ensuring the death investigations follow national standards. The Coroner is essentially the case coordinator in the death investigation and they ultimately determine the cause and manner of death and if an autopsy needs to be performed. Although it is assumed the Coroner should have some medical knowledge and many feel the Coroner should be a physician, this is not considered to be a requirement to be Mesa County Coroner.