A petition to oust Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau reached more than 2,300 signatures and Wednesday an official complaint was filed to remove her from office.
The petition started with the parents of Zachary Adamson who was found dead at his home in January. The coroner ruled the death a suicide but Adamson's parents believe she mishandled the investigation.
Three other families have come forward with similar concerns. Attorneys for these families say all this stems from an ongoing feud between the coroner and the sheriff's office. The two offices can't seem to get along at crime scene investigations and unfortunately families are left without answers.
"We started gathering signatures on March 1, a Saturday, and within six hours we had collected three times the number that had put Dr. Varnau in as coroner," attorney Tracy Hawkins.
"It's the worst thing you could possibly imagine," said Steve Adamson, the father of Zachary Adamson who sustained a gunshot wound to the head.
The Adamson family says Zachary's home was left unlocked and his possessions were not secured. From the moment his body was found, the Adamson family claims the coroner did not take proper steps to preserve a crime scene. Zachary Adamson's parents believe foul play could have been involved but without evidence from a crime scene, they will never know what really happened to their son.
"Every day we question each other. We talk about it and we say, 'I wonder if this happened' or 'I wonder if that happened. It's wearing, it's tiring and it just hurts," said Steve Adamson.
Now a visiting judge will hear the complaint and make a decision. Varnau has the option to ask for a jury to hear the complaint. Hawkins says they have also asked Varnau be suspended as acting Brown County coroner while the case is handled.
"It is a statement from the Adamsons' and from other families here that nobody should have to go through what they have gone through. No questions should be left unanswered. Not this many," Hawkins said.
Earlier this month, the Brown County prosecutor, coroner and sheriff crafted a Memorandum of
Understanding establishing procedures and guidelines to be followed in cases of deaths as
described in Ohio Revised Code Section 313.12.
In response to all of this, Varnau sent us this statement.
"The coroner's office has been following the law, as clearly explained in this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), since I took office Dec. 30, 2013. This MOU specifically spells out how the three offices are to interact as well as the responsibilities of each office, concerning all death scenes within Brown County."
A hearing on the motion for suspension will be held on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. The hearing for the permanent removal will be held on May 14 at 9:30
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