Jeremy Kilpatrick/ W.C. Mann
CULLMAN – The Cullman County Coroner is an elected (yes, elected) official whose primary responsibilities include responding to scenes where a person has died unexpectedly or in a suspicious manner, conducting preliminary investigations, requesting autopsies and issuing death certificates. The coroner may also be called upon to testify in court cases. Many Tribune readers are familiar with the name Jeremy L. Kilpatrick because, as Cullman County Coroner, he is the only one who can officially pronounce someone deceased. You may have seen his name in numerous news stories regarding tragedies in our area. Below, in a brief 10 question format, we shine a little more light on what Kilpatrick does and why. This is part of a monthly series in which we introduce our readers to leaders and elected officials throughout Cullman County.
1. How many calls do you handle each month, on average?
It varies. On average, 15-20 per month. So far this year, I’ve investigated 130 deaths. In July, I had 29.
2. You also work as an EMT. How does that affect the job you do as coroner?
It pretty much means that I work seven days a week. That’s following up on autopsies, toxicology reports, insurance companies’ requests for records or answering questions for families. That doesn’t include new coroner cases.
3. Cullman has seen a large number of suicides so far this year. What steps do you think could be taken to reduce suicides in the future?
As of right now, we have had 21 suicides. So that is a suicide rate of 1:3,924.5 persons based on the 2016 census. I have noticed several churches and individuals have stepped up offering help in addition to what services are already available in the count; however, I believe we need to have more state funding for mental health care to help slow down this trend.
4. What are the most common causes of death in Cullman County?
In no particular order: cancer, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, motor vehicle accidents and suicide.
5. Why did you decide to become a coroner?
Out of a desire to help families find closure.
6. What do you like most about your job?
Helping families find closure. Also, being able to recognize and bring awareness to some of the preventable deaths in hopes of reducing them.
7. Did you have to get a certain degree or certification to become a coroner?
Currently, no. Coroners only have to attend annual training to maintain continuing education requirements, based on state law.
8. On average, how many traffic fatalities do you see per year?
On average, we have 24 traffic-related deaths in Cullman per year.
9. What's something the public would be surprised to learn about the role of the Cullman County coroner?
I think everyone knows that the coroner is the only one who can arrest the sheriff (only if the governor calls me and tells me to do so). But, the coroner also has to discharge the duties of sheriff should he or she become incapacitated or if the sheriff’s position is vacant. Also, the coroner can act as keeper of the jail if the sheriff is imprisoned.
10. Your position is an elected one. How long is your term and when are you up for re-election?
The coroner position is a four-year term. I will be up for re-election in 2018.
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