Coroner files annual report

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Coroner Mike St. Clair told county commissioners his office was called out to investigate 524 cases in 2012.

St. Clair’s year-end report listed 10 suicides for 2012, up from six the previous year.

“It is sometimes difficult to confirm a suicide unless there was a note or the individual verbalized their intent to someone,” St. Clair told the commissioners.

“The number of deaths from alcohol was three, and there were three deaths from fire our office was involved with, and 19 falls. I think that number is up because everyone is becoming more aggressive in investigating those,” St. Clair said.

There were four deaths from all-terrain vehicle crashes, no tractor/farm related cases and five infant/child cases. An infant/child is defined as someone eight years or younger.

“Fifty percent of the people in Wood County who die, the coroner is involved with the investigation,” St. Clair said.

The coroner’s report lists one homicide in which his office was involved; 25-drug related deaths, and two drownings.

There were 25 cases listed with the cause of death heart disease-related and six motor vehicle crash-related deaths.

St. Clair said the majority of drug-related deaths were due to pills, but there was one death related to heroin last year, he noted.

“We are also sometimes called to assist other counties,” St. Clair said. The report listed 29 cases in which assistance was provided to Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Mason and Wirt counties in 2012.

There were a total of 1,057 deaths in Wood County last year compared to 1,060 the year before.

The coroner is paid through the state when called out. The county has paid for some training, and provides office space and a vehicle for the coroner’s use. St. Clair’s office was formerly located in the old magistrate court building, which was torn down. His office is now located on the third floor of the Shaver Judicial Annex in what was formerly the law library.

According to county records, the total budget for the office is $3,250. Part of the budget includes funding for vehicle maintenance, contractual services, which includes some funds set aside for a retirement account, phone, travel and training expenses, equipment and supplies.

In July, Patricia McCay was appointed as an assistant coroner for Wood County. She has state certification and was recommended by the chief medical examiner with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The primary role of medical examiners, or coroners, is to determine the cause of death, whether natural, accidental or intentional in the case of an unattended or unexplained death.