Coroner says he will seek second term

December 23, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

FRANKLIN COUNTY - Jeff Conner knows that as soon as he knocks on a door and identifies himself that he's ruined somebody's day.

"When I tell them who I am, they know I'm bringing bad news," said Conner, 47, Franklin County's coroner for the last three years.

His official duties, in addition to pronouncing people dead, include notifying the victim's next of kin.

While Conner said he deals in death as part of his normal routine, telling families about the loss of a loved one is always the toughest part of his job.


"I just try to be professional and kind," he said.

Conner said his office investigates about 500 deaths a year. Coroners investigate all unexpected deaths - accidental, homicide, suicide or suspicious. Deaths from natural causes often are investigated if they occur under unusual circumstances, he said.

Conner, a Republican, announced Friday that he will seek a second four-year term next year. His current term expires Dec. 31, 2003.

The coroner's job pays about $50,000 and requires whoever holds it to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Conner was elected coroner to succeed Kenneth L. Pfeiffer Jr. Pfeiffer, who serves as a deputy under Conner, stepped down as county coroner in 2000. He held the job for 12 years.

Paul Reed is chief deputy coroner under Conner.

In Pennsylvania, only Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which have home rule, operate with medical examiners. Counties have coroners. Medical examiners must be physicians. Coroners are not required to be doctors in Pennsylvania, but they are required to pass a state exam before serving.

Conner, who had served on area ambulance crews as an emergency medical technician, has racked up more than 700 hours of specialized training in connection with his job as coroner.

He has had courses and training in forensic death, homicide and fire-arson investigations, crime scene techniques and child and elder death.

Conner also presents programs on drug and alcohol abuse and on the use of seatbelts in area schools.

Conner, a 1972 graduate of Chambersburg Area Senior High School, lives with his wife, Phoebe, at 1497 Loudon Road, St. Thomas, Pa.

The couple has two college-age sons, Justin and Jordon.

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