Lawsuit: Brown County coroner didn't fully investigate death - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Suit: Brown Co. coroner didn't fully investigate man's death


A Brown County woman has filed suit in federal court against Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau, accusing the coroner of failing to meaningfully investigate the death of the woman's brother last August.

Hanson E. Jones Jr. died on or about Aug. 7 in his home, suffering from a gunshot wound to his head. Varnau ruled the cause of death was suicide.

The suit says Varnau did not perform an autopsy or retain someone to perform it. The suit also says Varnau did not test the hands or any other portion of Jones' body for gunshot residue.

The next morning on Aug. 8 sister Donna Elfers and two sisters went to Jones' unlocked home. There they found a large piece of Jones' skull on the windowsill and other skull fragments lying about the premises. They also found a shotgun on the floor and a large knife stuck in the kitchen table. Toe tags, latex gloves and body bag wrappers were on the floor, the suit says.

The Brown County Sheriff's Office told Elfers that the investigation was the responsibility of the coroner.

On Aug. 9, Elfers called Varnau's home and spoke to her husband Dennis Varnau who had accompanied his wife to Jones' death scene. Dennis Varnau talked about a political feud between himself, his wife and the sheriff's office.

"This family will never know if Hanson Jones was murdered or committed suicide," attorney Al Gerhardstein said.  "They do know that his remains were disrespected. We hope through this case to encourage the coroner to stop using Brown County deaths as a pawn in her political feud with the sheriff." 

Brown County commissioners and Dennis Varnau are also defendants.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages against the Varnaus and attorney fees.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

FOX19 contacted Dr. Judith Varnau seeking comment.

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