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Coroner's job hinges on plea deal

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GREENFIELD — The outcome of a hearing in Hancock County Superior Court 1 Monday will determine whether Crystel Myers keeps her job as county coroner.

Myers, who is due in court to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday, has already accepted a plea agreement in her criminal case, according to court records. A plea agreement indicates Myers and the special prosecutor assigned to the case have agreed on a charge to which Myers will plead. Often, that agreement contains a sentence recommendation for the judge to consider.

The details of that agreement won’t become public until they are accepted by a judge, who will evaluate the agreement Monday.

Myers was arrested in December after being accused, along with a friend, of shoplifting children’s toys from the Greenfield Wal-Mart store.

Myers’ friend, who was living with her at the time of the pair’s arrest, later pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for the thefts, saying he made a mistake and was sorry for his actions. Myers has maintained her innocence since her arrest, insisting she would not plead guilty to theft, a felony, because she is not guilty of stealing.

Another option would be for Myers to plead guilty to conversion, a reduced misdemeanor-level charge often substituted for a felony theft charge.

The distinction is important for Myers’ political future. A felony conviction automatically removes her from office; a misdemeanor conviction allows her to keep her job.

In 2012, attorneys for former Coroner Tamara Vangundy were stunned to learn that she would be unable to hold office or run for re-election after she pleaded guilty to a felony in a drunken-driving case.

Vangundy had hoped to run for re-election but learned that Indiana election laws prohibited her from doing so.

Myers, a Democrat, succeeded Vangundy. She still has 2½ years remaining in her term. Should she be convicted of a felony, she would be automatically removed from office, and the Hancock County Democratic Party would have to hold a caucus to appoint a replacement to carry out her term.

Myers hasn’t taken a case since her arrest in December. She unofficially turned over the reins to her chief deputy coroner, Rudy Nylund. Nylund has been sharing the caseload with deputies Steven Slinkard and David McWhorter. Vangundy was also recently brought back on board, but she has not taken any cases, and her role will be more fully vetted at the conclusion of Myers’ case, Nylund said.

Myers’ hearing is open to the public.

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