Coroner

Contact Us

  • Office: 970-328-8864

    Coroner
    P.O. Box 5200
    Eagle, Colorado 81631 
     
    coroner@eaglecounty.us  


Resources

General Information

Many citizens do not realize that the Coroner’s responsibilities extend far beyond the scene of death and the autopsy suite. We review thousands of pages of medical records each year. We work closely with law enforcement agencies, first responders, area funeral directors, hospitals, physicians and nurses.

Most importantly, we work closely and compassionately with many families each year as they cope with the loss of a loved one. Often, our relationship with family members and friends may continue for months.

Eagle County Coroner’s Office comprises of the Coroner, Kara Bettis, who is a certified death investigator with the Colorado Coroner’s Association. Chief Deputy Coroner, Ben Linscott, who is also a certified death investigator with the Colorado Coroner’s Association.  The Coroner’s Office is also assisted by on-call certified deputy coroners.

Mission Statement

  • To accurately determine the manner and the cause of death of individuals that die within Eagle County.
  • To assist families in their loss of a loved one.
  • To earn and hold the trust and respect of the citizens that we are privileged and honored to serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the roll of the Coroner?
The Coroner’s Office is a statutory office, which is mandated to establish the cause and manner of death. The cause of death is the injury, disease, or combination of the two that was responsible for initiating the train of physiological disturbances (brief or prolonged), which produced the fatal termination. The manner of death refers to the circumstances in which the cause of death arose (suicide, natural causes, accident, homicide or undetermined). It is often a misconception that the responsibility for determining these vital questions lies with the law enforcement agency; however, this is the responsibility of the Coroner.

What is cause of death?
The cause of death is the disease or injury responsible for initiating the train of events, brief or prolonged, that produced the fatal end result.

What is the manner of death?
The manner of death is the fashion in which the cause of death came into being. It can be one of only five designations: natural, suicide, homicide, accident, or undetermined.

Why is the coroner involved?
State law requires the coroner to be notified. Then the coroner investigates and determines the circumstances, manner and cause of all sudden, violent or unusual deaths and those deaths where a doctor is not in attendance. Occasionally, more extensive testing and investigation is required, in which case a pending death certificate is signed which will allow final disposition to take place.

The following deaths are required to be reported to the coroner:

  • No physician is in attendance.
  • The attending physician is unable or unwilling to certify the cause of death.
  • The attending physician has not been in actual attendance within 30 days prior to death.
  • All cases in which trauma may be associated with the death, such as traffic accidents, gunshots, falls, etc.This includes inpatients who have sustained fractures any time in the past.
  • Deaths by poisoning, suspected poisoning, chemical or bacteria, industrial hazardous material or radiation.
  • All industrial accidents.
  • Known or suspected suicides.
  • Deaths due to contagious disease.
  • Deaths due to self-induced or unexplained abortion.
  • Operating room deaths and deaths that occur during a medical procedure.
  • All unexplained deaths (deaths that occur in a healthy individual.)
  • Deaths that occur within 24 hours of admission to a hospital or nursing care facility.
  • Deaths in the custody of law enforcement.
  • Deaths of persons in the care of a public institution

What is an autopsy and is it necessary?
An autopsy is part of a forensic investigation. The Eagle County Coroner’s Office does not do limited autopsies but full forensic autopsies. Per state statute, it is the decision of the Coroner’s Office as to whether or not an autopsy will be conducted. The office understands that some families might object to an autopsy. These cases will be handled on a case by case basis. The authority to perform an autopsy as part of a coroner’s investigation is provided by Colorado law (C.R.S. 30-10-606.5).

Where does my loved on go for an autopsy?
We do not have a morgue in Eagle County; we rely on local mortuaries to make removals on our behalf. If an autopsy is deemed necessary we have contracts with Jefferson County Coroners Facility in Golden and with Rocky Mountain Forensic Services, PLLC, in Grand Junction. We ask that you do not call them with questions as they will only notify our office on your behalf.

What is the next step?
You should select a mortuary to assist you in making arrangements. We are not allowed to recommend a mortuary so we suggest you contact several to find out what services are offered. If you are from out of state or from out of country, you may choose a funeral home from your area. They will then work with a mortuary here in Colorado to make arrangements for cremation or shipping. The funeral home representative will contact you for permission and information needed. Upon completion of the investigation and or autopsy, the funeral home will be in contact with our office to eliminate possible delays in your arrangements.

Do I need to I.D. my loved one?
Most often the identification is made through fingerprint comparison or other means. Sometimes a personal identification is required in which case one of our investigators will contact you to make arrangements for identification.

When can I see my loved one?
If you are not present with your loved one at the place of their death, we cannot allow you to view them until they are at the mortuary of your choice. We often recommend that the mortuary prepare your loved one for a private viewing if you so desire.

Normally we do not recommend viewing your loved one prior to an autopsy, the decision to allow this is made on a case-by-case basis. To view your loved one prior to autopsy you must be at least eighteen years of age. You must be an immediate family member or accompanied by the legal next-of-kin. You must bring a government issued photo identification card with you to the viewing. You must sign the appropriate forms. A representative of the coroner’s office has to be present if this viewing is prior to the autopsy.

What about Death Certificates?
After certification by the coroner, the mortuary is responsible for filing the death certificate with the registrar at Eagle County Health and Human Services. Their number is 970-328-8840. The mortuary can assist you in determining the number of death certificates you will need and in obtaining them.

How do I obtain an autopsy report?
In most cases the autopsy report is a public record. A written request must be submitted to the office in order to receive a copy of the autopsy report. If you are not a member of the deceased’s immediate family, you will be required to pay for a copy of the autopsy report.

Please include the decedent’s name as well as your name, address and relationship. The legal next-of-kin (or person acting on their behalf) is permitted a courtesy copy of the autopsy report. 

Will I be charged for coroner’s services and autopsy?
No, the Eagle County Coroner’s Office does not assess any fee, other than processing requested autopsy reports. 

Organ/Tissue Donation
Eagle County Coroner’s Office supports and respects the deceased and the deceased family’s decision to donate organs or tissues. The deceased individual must meet certain criteria to be eligible for organ, tissue, and/or whole body donation. Additionally, deaths under the investigation of the office of the coroner require the approval of coroner staff for donation to proceed. Sometimes the circumstances of the death will prevent donation from occurring. With consent from the legal next of kin, donation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Additional information on organ and tissue donation can be found at the following websites:   www.donoralliance.org, and Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank, www.corneas.org.

How do I obtain the personal effects, clothing and items taken for evidence?
In most circumstances, all clothing that your loved one was wearing at the time of his/her death will be released to the mortuary with your loved one’s body. In MOST circumstances all other property is inventoried, photographed and stored in safe keeping at the Office of the Coroner until it can be returned to you (the legal next-of-kin).

If a crime was committed by or against the decedent, all clothing and personal effects are generally retained as evidence by the investigating law enforcement agency.

If there are no funds for burial, what can I do?
If your loved one was a veteran, you may contact Veteran’s Affairs toll free at 1-800-827-1000 or at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for funeral assistance that may be available to you.  If you cannot afford burial/cremation arrangements you may also qualify for monetary assistance through county programs. Contact social services for the county in which your loved one resided.

Law Enforcement Contacts:

Eagle County Sheriff’s Office
0885 E Chambers Ave.
PO Box 359
Eagle, CO 81631
Phone: 970-328-8500
Fax: 970-328-1448
info@sheriff.eagle.co.us

Vail Police
General Information
Phone: 970-479-2200
vailpolice@vailgov.com

Avon Police Department 

1 Lake Street
PO Box 975
Avon, CO 81620
Phone: 970-748-4040
Fax: 970-845-7098  

Eagle Police Department
200 Broadway
PO Box 609
Eagle, CO 81631
Phone: 970-328-6351
Fax: 970-328-9659
epd@townofeagle.org

After Hours Dispatch: 970-479-2200
Emergency: 9-1-1

Basalt Police Department
100 Elk Run Drive, Suite 115
Basalt, CO 81621
Phone: 970-927-4316
Phone: 970-920-5310 (Night Police / Dispatch)
Fax: 970-927-4300

Colorado State Patrol
Glenwood Springs Troop Office
202 Centennial Street
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
Phone: 970-945-6198
Fax: 970-945-6598
Dispatch: 970-249-4392

The towns of Minturn, Red Cliff, Gypsum, and the unincorporated areas of Eagle County are serviced by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.