Judge hears testimony against Brown County Coroner

Judge hears testimony against Brown County Coroner

BROWN COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Tuesday, a retired Montgomery County judge heard three hours of testimony as to why Dr. Judith Varnau should be suspended from her position as coroner pending the outcome of a trial to remove her from office.

The hearing comes after a petition to oust the coroner garnered more than 2,300 signatures. Last week, attorneys filed the official complaint to remove Dr. Varnau from her position along with a motion to suspend her pending a trial.

Tuesday, Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau sat at the defense table alone telling the judge she did not have enough time to secure representation after being summoned. Despite asking for a continuance, the judge ruled they proceed with nine witnesses testifying to Dr. Varnau's poor performance as coroner including Brown County Sheriff Chief Deputy John Schadel.

"They [the Brown County Sheriff's Department] don't feel comfortable working with you based on what we perceive to be your ability to competently do your job," said Schadel.

Testimony consisted of debate between Dr. Varnau and witnesses concerning who was responsible for securing death scenes and collecting evidence in Brown County. The coroner says her job is to determine the cause and manner of death not collect evidence or secure crime scenes. Witnesses from the Brown County Sheriff's Department say the coroner does not allow them to do their job and have asked them to stay out of her investigations.

Steve Adamson, the father who steered the petition to remove Dr. Varnau from office, said he isn't sure what her job description is but that more investigation should have been done into his son's death. Zachary Adamson died earlier this year from a gunshot wound to the head. Steve Adamson says the coroner ruled his death a suicide without a proper investigation.

"The way you handled my son's death, the way you handled this whole situation, its mind numbing," says Anderson.

It is a problem Dr. Varnau explained comes from the sheriff's office. She maintains she is following the law and doing her job as coroner.

"I'm concerned that people keep trying to make me do law enforcement's job and that is not the way the law reads," says Dr. Varnau.

The judge said he will review the evidence presented and make a decision on whether or not to suspend Dr. Varnau by the end of the week. The trial to remove her from office is set to begin May 14.