Coroner

Cassia County Coroner's Office

craigRinehart_small.jpg
Craig Rinehart, Elected Coroner
crinehart@cassiacounty.org
208-431-0110 (cell phone)

Terry Bell, Chief Deputy Coroner
tbell@pmt.org
208-260-2442 (cell phone)

Hours: on call 24 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the position of Coroner?

A: Each county in Idaho has an elected County Coroner. The election of the Coroner occurs every four years. The Coroner investigates deaths that occur under certain circumstances defined by Idaho Code. The Coroner determines the manner and cause of death for all physician non-attended deaths. If determined necessary, the Coroner can have a Coroner's Inquest to determine facts associated with any suspicious or unattended death.

Q: Why is the Coroner called when death is due to natural causes?

A: The coroner investigates all homicides, suicides, accidents, and unattended deaths. Deaths from natural causes are also under the jurisdiction of the County Coroner under the following circumstances:

  • Sudden and unexpected

  • When the deceased is not receiving medical treatment or not attended by a qualified physician

  • Occurs in certain types of institutions

  • When questions are raised that can only be answered appropriately following an investigation

Idaho Code § 19-4301, as soon as the Coroner is informed that a person in his county has died shall go to the scene of the death and take jurisdiction over the body. An investigation into the events leading up to the person's death shall commence in cooperation with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The Coroner may authorize or direct an autopsy to be performed by a licensed physician in the state of Idaho to aid in accurately and scientifically determining the cause and manner of death. The Coroner also prepares a written report of the factual information gathered during the course of an investigation.

Q: Who calls the Coroner?

A: Any person who believes that a death has occurred under the law must immediately notify the Corner. This is done by dialing 911 and providing appropriate information to the Cassia County Sheriff' Office dispatch. They will in turn dispatch the appropriate law enforcement personnel and the Coroner.

Q: Why do police investigate a death?

A: The Sheriff's Office personnel responds to all emergency calls in Cassia County and are often the first on the scene. Their special training and expertise enables them to gather information and provide services to facilitate the Coroner in carrying out as thorough an investigation as possible.

Q: How can I obtain Coroner information?

A: When an investigation is complete with both the Sheriff's Office and the Coroner, the Coroner may provide a copy of the coroner's investigation report, upon written request, to the immediate family (spouse, parent, child, brother, sister) or personal representative. The investigation reports are subject to public review and will not include protected health information as well as reports or documents obtained from other agencies.

Q: How do I obtain a death certificate?

A: Generally, the funeral professional handling the funeral services will assist with obtaining a death certificate. A family member of the deceased may also request a certified death certificate from the Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics. There is a fee for each certified copy obtained.

Q: Is consent required for a medical – legal autopsy?

A: No. Autopsies often help answer questions regarding hereditary aspects of diseases, and the findings can have important implications for estate and insurance purposes. An autopsy also prevents anxiety from not knowing what actually has caused a death. If there are objections, the Coroner will explain the need for the autopsy, but consent is not required.

Q: Is an autopsy required in every case?

A: No. The Coroner is trained and has the knowledge and experience to determine if findings required by law can be determined without an autopsy.

Q: Who performs the autopsy?

A: The Coroner directs and arranges a qualified pathology physician specialist, preferably a board certified forensic pathologist, to conduct the examination. Special examination of particular body organs or fluids may be requested by the Coroner from other experts.

Q: Does an autopsy delay funeral arrangements?

A: Generally, the answer is no. However, if an investigation requires additional work, such as proof of identification, it may cause a delay and your funeral professional will advise you as to timing to assist with arrangements for final disposition.

Q: What organs can be donated after death?

A: Body organs or tissues in greatest demand include eyes, kidneys, liver, joints, long bones, vascular tissue, heart, heart valves and skin. Consent for removal is required and must be made immediately as time is of the utmost importance for retrieving and preserving tissue. The Idaho drivers license contains a checkbox for organ donation. Additionally, the next of kin of the deceased may also give consent for donation of body organs or tissues. The Idaho State Coroner’s Association is proactive with multiple organ donation agencies and works to help in the procurement of donations.

Q: Will there be an inquest?

A: Inquests are held on all cases where a person had been involved with a law enforcement officer at the time of his or her death. Inquests can also be held at the Coroner's discretion. The Coroner may also hold an inquest:

  • When certain circumstances relating to a death need to be brought to the attention of the public
  • When the identity of the deceased or the date, place or cause of death has not been established
  • When it is unknown how a death occurred.

The County Coroner, County Prosecutor, and law enforcement officers that are part of the case are all involved in the decision for a Coroner's inquest.

Q: If there is an inquest, is the family of the deceased required to attend?

A: No, unless a family member member has been called to be a witness.

Q: How does the Coroner obtain medical information?

A: The coroner may use many different methods when determining the cause and manner of death. This includes medical records from physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Federal Code 40 5C. F. R. 164.513 (G) and Idaho Code § 19-4301 concerning protected healthcare information specifically indicates that protected healthcare information can be disseminated to the Coroner for the purpose of aiding an investigation into the cause and manner of death and to assist with the identification of the deceased. Although these records are placed in the Coroner's case file, they are not subject to public records request.