The Knowledge of Stark County Coroner

Harry Campbell, Stark County chief investigator for the Stark County Coroners office. He started in the profession in 1994, the science behind the job made him be an investigative coroner full time.

The Stark County Coroners’ office investigates all homicides, suicides, deaths by accident, sudden and unexpected death, and natural deaths if they do not have a family doctor.

“If we get a call from EMS, let’s say a woman found her husband dead, he’s an elderly man and she called 911. The paramedics get there, they are going to do what is called a primary survey. They are looking for signs of life, looking for trauma, is this individual viable, do we need to take him to the hospital,” he said. “They do their primary survey and they find their obvious signs of death which there are 4. Those 4 are Rigor Mortis which is the stiffness of death, Livor Mortis which is the settling of the blood, Decomposition which is the individual is decomposing, and decapitation or massive head trauma,”

Campbell explains if EMS sees none of those things and thinks the individual may be viable they take the person to the hospital emergency department. If EMS sees Rigor Mortis or Livor Mortis, they will stop or not even start then they will find out if they have a doctor and their medical history then will call the Coroner.

“Then I the coroner will ask questions ‘who is their doctor?’, ‘what is their medical history?’, ‘Do they have a doctor?’ , “Do they have any medical history at all?’, then we will make a decision whether or not it is a coroner’s case,” he explains. “If they have a doctor if they have a significant medical history and there are no concerns about drug abuse, trauma or anything like that. We will likely release them and their family can pick the funeral home, the funeral home will pick them up, and then we’re done,”

Campbell explains if they have the same exact circumstances but the individual hasn’t been back to a doctor for years, that individual is going to go to the coroner’s office because the coroner now becomes their doctor and has to sign the death certificate.

The Stark County Coroners’ office only has two investigative coroners which Harry is one of them. The two rotate working, one works 7 days on while the other has those 7 days off.

“During my 7 days I am on call, I handle every death within those 7 days,” he explains. “That can be 3, 4, 5 deaths or it can be 25 deaths,”

One of the hardships of Campbell’s job is that having a lot of cases in a short period of time, you can become exhausted. In the year 2020, they had 649 cases, which would be 325 cases per person. Campbell explains he enjoys his job, loves what he does, and likes who he works with.

“I concentrate on doing my job, I concentrate on taking care of the family, and just do the job,” he explains.

Kid death cases are the ones that make Campbell lose sleep sometimes, which isn’t due to emotions it is due to making sure they did not miss anything while examining the child. The job comes first to figure what happened to the deceased individual, and your emotions are put aside.

Campbell explains for mental health purposes for medical staff and loved ones on a traumatic scene, the Stark County Mental Health board has a group of individuals who get called out to scenes to talk to loved ones and any of the staff on site.

“If there was a time if I had a particularly gruesome scene or emotional scene, they would be there for anyone else, not only the family,” he said.