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    History

    Background of The Coroner in Orange County

    When the County of Orange was founded in 1889, I.D. Mills became the County's first Coroner/Public Administrator. The partnership between these two branches of government existed until 1965 when a county ordinance separated the Coroner and Public Administrator functions. Five years later in 1970, the Coroner's Office underwent further changes when the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to co-join the Office of Coroner and the Office of Sheriff, making it the 31st Sheriff-Coroner Department in California on January 4, 1971. Today, the vast majority of the 58 counties in the state are Sheriff-Coroner systems.

    A Timeline of the Coroner in Orange County

    1889  

    August 1st, County of Orange founded.

    July 7th, I.D. Mills is elected the first Coroner/Public Administrator

    Population: 13,689

    1891

     
    January 1st, Frank Ely begins his term as Coroner/Public Administrator

    1934

    August 28th, Earl Abbey is elected Coroner/Public Administrator.

    1953

    Coroner Staff 1953

     (Left to right) Chief Deputy, Frank G. Hanson; Autopsy Surgeon, Raymond A. Brandt, M. D.; Coroner, Earl R. Abbey;

     Secretary, Gladys Cheleen; Deputy, Roger S. Burnham; Deputy, Walter L. Fox

    1960

    Population: 703,925
    Total county deaths: 4,433
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 1,201

    Raymond A. Brandt, M.D. is elected Coroner/Public Administrator.

    Coroner Facility 1960

    Orange County Coroner Facility circa 1960

    1965

    Population: 775,000
    Total county deaths: 5,972
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 3,145

    Board of Supervisors vote to separate the offices of Public Administrator and Coroner.

    1966

     
    Raymond A. Brandt, M.D. becomes Coroner of Orange County.

    1967

    Coroner Brandt seeks a centralized morgue.

    Coroner seeks centralized morgue

    "Recent grand jury panels have consistently cited a need for the central morgue but none went into the details as thoroughly as the 1965 panel headed by James Holm  of Fullerton. It termed the system of traveling to the mortuaries "archaic, costly and inefficient." It urged creation of the central morgue, claiming it would save $622,709 over five years."

    1970

    Population: 1,420,386
    Total county deaths: 8,549
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 4,280

    No centralized morgue facility exists. Autopsy examinations are performed at various local mortuaries with the exception of homicides which are conducted at the Orange County Medical Center (now University of California at Irvine Medical Center). Coroner investigators and support staff are housed on Civic Center Drive, in Santa Ana.

    1971

    January 4th, Office of Sheriff and Coroner co-joined to create Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department, making it the 31st county in the state to use the Sheriff-Coroner system.

    James A. Musick

    Sheriff James A. Musick (elected in 1947) becomes the County's first Sheriff-Coroner.

    Coroner Investigators

    Orange County Coroner's Investigators are, front row, left, Jim Bricker, Bill Minick, Chief Deputy Eugene Miller and Jack Cale; back row, left Ron Stanzak, Russ Greene, John Gill, Joe Stevens and Senior Investigator Jim Beisner. Beisner would later become the Chief Deputy Coroner.

    1972

    Interview with Coroner Investigators

    The Daily Pilot interviews Coroner Investigators Bill Minick and Jim Beisner.

    1974

    Coroner Division Moves to Headquarters Building

    The Coroner Division staff moves to the Headquarters Building at 550 N. Flower, Santa Ana. Autopsy examinations continue to be conducted at various mortuaries throughout the county.

    Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates

    Brad Gates is elected Sheriff-Coroner.

    1975

    Population: 1,590,832
    Total county deaths: 9,885
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 4,884

    1977

    April 26th, based on recommendations by Sheriff Gates, the Board of Supervisors approves the construction of a central morgue and forensic laboratory facility west of the county jail in Santa Ana.

    1978

    Chief Deputy Coroner Jim Beisner

    James D. Beisner is appointed Chief Deputy
    Coroner in charge of the Coroner Division.

    1980

    Population: 1,932,709
    Total county deaths: 11,736
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 4,773

    1981

    New Forensic Science Building 1981

    Construction is completed at 1071 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana .

    September 1st, the Orange County Forensic Science Center opens for business. The 9,953 square foot state-of-the-art facility contains a centralized morgue and toxicology lab.

    1984

    The Orange County Register spotlights the Forensic Science Center's Forensic Pathologists.

    Orange County Forensic Pathologists 1984

    Larry Ragle, left, County Director of Forensic Science, Jim Beisner, center, Chief Deputy Coroner, and Dr. Walter Fischer, seek the sometimes elusive cause of death to aid police in their work.

    1985

    Population: 2,216,601
    Total county deaths: 13,031
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 6,047

    Coroner Management Staff 1985

    Coroner Division Management Staff; James Beisner, Barbara Mitchell, Richard Rodriguez and Bill Lystrup

    1989

    First Death Investigation Course designed specifically for deputy coroner investigative personnel is sponsored by the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department.

    FSC Building houses County's first DNA Lab 1989

    November 1st, one of the country's first DNA labs is housed inside the Forensic Science Center building.

    1990

    Population: 2,410,556
    Total county deaths: 14,617
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 6,972

    The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training certifies the Coroner Basic Death Investigation Course.

    1992

    County ordinance #3857 is approved by the Board of Supervisors which states that deputy coroners must adhere to standards for selection and training as established by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.)

    1993

    Hutton Towers 1993

    August 22nd, the Sheriff's toxicology and DNA laboratories is relocated to the newly built Hutton Towers (now the Brad Gates Building).

    1994

    Coroner Division receives POST Certificate

    The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training certifies that the Orange County Coroner Division adheres to the standard for the selection and training of peace officers.

    1995

    Population: 2,614,800
    Total county deaths: 15,194
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 8,058

    1998

    December 4th, after 37 years of distinguished service with the County of Orange, Chief Deputy Coroner Jim Beisner retires.

    Chief Deputy Coroner Jacque Berndt

    December 5th, Jacque Berndt becomes the new Chief Deputy Coroner.

    1999

    Sheriff Brad Gates retires after serving the citizens of Orange County for 37 years. The final 24 years of his eminent service are spent as the elected Sheriff of Orange County.

    Sheriff-Coroner Michael S. Carona

    January 4th, newly elected Sheriff-Coroner Michael S. Carona is sworn in.

    The Coroner Basic Death Investigation Course celebrates its 10 year anniversary. Approximately 920 Deputy Coroners from throughout the state, the nation and as far away as the British Virgin Islands have been trained.

    2000

    Population: 2,813,833
    Total county deaths: 16,774
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 8,148

    Orange County receives $10,000,000 from the State of California to build the Statewide Coroner Training Facility. The County of Orange contributes $5,000,000 to the design of this $15,000,000 state-of-the-art facility.

    Proposed Statewide Coroner Training Facility

    November, floor plan design of the new 52,000 square foot facility begins.

    2001

    Temporary location during construction of Statewide Training Center

    May 4th, Coroner operations is relocated to a temporary location during construction of the Statewide Training Center.

    2002

    Construction of Statewide Training Facility

    April, construction of Statewide Coroner Training Facility is well underway.

    2004

    New Coroner Facility 2004

    March 17, Coroner Division moves into newly built California Coroner Training Center.

    May 3, first official statewide training class is held.

    August 6, Richard L. Rodriguez is selected as Chief Training Officer.

    2005

    Population: 2,957,263
    Total county deaths: 17,232
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 10,910


    2008

    Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens

    June 10, Sandra Hutchens is appointed Sheriff-Coroner by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

    Since the California Coroner Training Center opened its doors in 2004, 1,177 death investigation professionals from virtually every county in the state and parts of Nevada and Arizona have received first rate training from the Training Center’s cadre of elite instructors and subject matter experts.

    2010

    Population: 3,010,232
    Total county deaths: 17,704
    Deaths investigated by Coroner: 9,121


    June 8, Sheriff Hutchens is decisively elected by the people of Orange County.

    Sheriff on Election Night 2010

    2013

    March 31, Chief Deputy Coroner Jacque J. Berndt retires after almost 30 years of service with the County of Orange.