Wood County officials OK assistant victim advocate

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners approved a new assistant victim advocate and an additional assistant coroner took the oath of office.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton said Amanda Cornell’s position is fully funded through a grant. She will work 20 hours a week assisting the victim’s advocate who works out of the prosecutor’s office.

The program here has been in place for about 17 years. The county commission acts as the pass-through agency for the Victim’s of Crime Act Grant.

Victims advocates liaison between attorneys and victims, keeping victims apprised of court schedules, assisting with understanding of the court process and procedures, providing referrals to other community services if needed, helping with victim reparation and the crime victims reparation fund, as well as providing support.

Prior to becoming the new assistant victims advocate, Cornell interned with the prosecutor’s office while attending West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

“She attended hearings, assisted in magistrate court, spending time with the victim’s advocate as an intern. She did an excellent job,” Wharton told commissioners.

County officials had been unsure of the status of the grant funding for the post earlier, and the prosecutor said they waited for news of the grant before advertising the position.

“We were going month to month,” Wharton said. After verification of the grant funding at the federal level was received, Wharton said the job was advertised. “We received a number of applicants for the position.” Wharton said interviews were conducted last week and Cornell was chosen for the job.

In other business, Lisa M. Sutton was sworn as an assistant coroner.

Wood County Coroner Mike St. Clair said Sutton is already an employee with the state medical examiner’s office in Charleston, so she will not need to attend additional training.

The coroner’s office personnel is paid through the chief medical examiner’s office with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in Charlseton when called out. The county has paid for some training in the past and provides office space and a vehicle for the coroner’s use.

The coroner now has three assistants, Curtis Thomas, Patricia McKay and Lisa Sutton.

The 2012 report from the coroner’s office shows the office was called out to investigate 524 cases that year. The staff is also sometimes called out to assist in neighboring counties.

Sutton, a local resident, said she worked as a Child Protective Services investigator for several years.

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.