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Deputy coroners ready to serve

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GREENFIELD — With just days left until she takes office, Hancock County Coroner-elect Crystel Myers has selected her team of deputy coroners.

Deputy coroners receive $100 per death investigation and will be called on when Myers is unavailable.

Topping the list as her chief deputy is Rudy Nylund, 42, of Wilkinson.

Nylund works as a firefighter and paramedic for Buck Creek Township Fire Department, where he also serves as assistant fire chief. He currently serves as chief deputy for interim Coroner Dan Devoy.

Myers, 29, of Greenfield, announced her plans to keep Nylund on the payroll shortly after her victory in the November election. Nylund is known as a thorough death investigator, she said, and has a good reputation in the community.

There are several other familiar faces joining the team of reserves as well.

Steven Slinkard, 50, of Greenfield, ran for coroner in 2008 on the Democrat ballot. He was defeated in the November election that year by Tamara Vangundy, a Republican.

Slinkard, who has 28 years experience as a paramedic, received his certification as a death investigator that year under Devoy, who was serving as interim coroner at the time but lost to Vangundy in the primary election.

After losing to Vangundy in 2008, Slinkard didn’t get the chance to conduct any death investigations but said he kept up his training in hopes he would one day have another opportunity to serve.

“I figured that sooner or later, that I’d get on out here at Hancock with someone,” he said. “I like to work with the community and help everybody out. I think with my medical background, that will help quite a bit.”

Slinkard and Nylund expect to take the lead on death investigations Jan. 1 as Myers and the other deputies complete their training.

“Rudy and Steven will be the first calls of the year,” Myers said. “I will ride out with them on all the calls that I can.”

David McWhorter, 50, of Greenfield, is another soon-to-be deputy who has formerly expressed interest in coroner work.

McWhorter filed to fill the coroner position in September until the end of the year after Vangundy was removed from office after pleading guilty in a drunken driving case.

A local Republican Party caucus instead selected Devoy to fill the position.

McWhorter is the general manager of three funeral homes and two cemeteries in Kokomo and Huntington and grew up in the funeral business in Kentucky.

He also has a law enforcement background, having worked as a Marion County sheriff’s deputy for 10 years.

McWhorter said local residents will remember him from a 10-year stint from 1998 to 2007 working at the former Pasco Funeral Home.

McWhorter supported Myers in the November election, saying he liked her performance at a debate sponsored by the Daily Reporter.

Myers announced during the debate her plan to have autopsies conducted in county as opposed to having them sent to the Marion County Coroner’s office. It was a point that resonated with McWhorter.

“I like keeping it local,” McWhorter said.

Myers’ sister-in-law, Davina Jeffries, is also joining the team.

The county nepotism ordinance does not prohibit the coroner from hiring her sister-in-law.

But Jeffries’ status as a family member is not what made Myers reach out to her, Myers said.

Jeffries is married to Myers’ sister, and her perspective is one Myers believes will strengthen the diversity of her team. 

In the case of a death, same-sex relationships are sometimes difficult for officials to know how to navigate, Myers said.

Jeffries, who traveled to Iowa to marry Myers’s sister, agreed.

“It’s a delicate issue because there are different states that recognize different things,” said Jeffries, referring to spousal rights. “You kind of have to tiptoe around that and you have to be familiar with that kind of stuff. I’m sure there’s gonna be cases where someone passes away at the hospital, and their same-gender spouse wants to see them at the hospital, and the hospital can tell them no.”

Jeffries, 41, of Greenfield, is retired from the U.S. Navy and has worked as a project manager for Tyco Integrated Security (formerly ADT Business Solutions) for the past 13 years.

She is excited to work alongside Myers and learn what coroner work is like.

“It’s something new to learn, and it’s … a road I haven’t ventured down before,” she said.

A family friend of Myers’, Casey Ruggles, rounds out the list of deputies.

Ruggles, 25, of Greenfield, is an automotive technician at Hubler Auto Center in Rushville. He is in his second year studying criminal justice at Ivy Tech Community College.

Myers said she feels confident in her team and is excited to begin work after the first of the year.

“Individually and as a group, we will work to support the community the best,” she said. “I didn’t base it on their background or anything like that. I based it on how we were gonna work together as team. I think we can all learn from each other just a little bit, and I think that’s important in every aspect of life, not just in this one.”

The deputies will join Myers for training Feb. 8-10 and Feb. 22-24.

Myers has six months to earn death investigator certification; deputies have one year.

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