The Missouri Coroners’ and Medical Examiners’ Association states, “The office of Coroner is not among the first government services that come to mind when citizens think what they pay for with property taxes. The Coroner is an obscure job visible mainly to the members of public safety agencies, journalists and relatives of those who die from suspected homicides, suicides or accidents. Other members of the public have little reason to familiarize themselves with the workings of the office or the qualifications of those who hold the office of Coroner.”
Most residents are unsure of what the Coroner does specifically. Schowengerdt explained, “In counties with a large population such as Jackson and Cass Counties, a Medical Examiner (licensed physician) is appointed as Coroner. In smaller populated counties such as Bates County, the office of Coroner is an elected position. Many years ago, Dr. Douglas C. Ronald was elected as Bates County Coroner. It is apparent to me that it is now time for our county again to have a medical professional serve as our Coroner.” Due to the doctors’ commitments of caring for their patients, time would not allow them to serve as Coroner. This is when the Funeral Home Directors/Embalmers were elected as Coroners. With the amount of drugs and shootings that are happening in the world today, Schowengerdt feels it would be beneficial for the Coroner to have medical and law enforcement experience to determine the cause and manner of death.
Coroner Schowengerdt explained, “What is a coroner and what does the coroner do?” A Coroner determines the cause and manner of death with Law Enforcement present. They will then notify the family. Once the family has been contacted, they will notify the funeral home of choice. Coroners are on call 24/7, there is never an “off” time. The Coroner is to only identify deaths of violence by homicide, suicide or an accident. The County Coroner will sometimes respond to the ER to determine cause and manner of death. Nursing homes are required to notify the Coroner that a person has died.
The Coroner also performs duties of the Sheriff when the office is vacant by death or otherwise. When a Coroner enters the scene he usually wears a badge for identification that is symbolic to a law enforcement badge.
To recognize Coroner Gary Schowengerdt for his 24 years of dedicated service as Bates County Coroner, there will be an appreciation luncheon set at a later date.