FLORENCE, Ala. – A grand jury says a North Alabama coroner isn’t fulfilling the duties of his office. Lauderdale County Coroner George “Butch” Tucker has been summoned to appear before a judge on January 6 to answer allegations from families who claim he neglected the job.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said his office started investigating County Coroner Tucker after getting complaints from families.
“We began to receive complaints from citizens who were saying they were having trouble getting their death certificates from the coroner or from the entity that issues on it,” said Lauderdale County District Attorney, Chris Connolly.
Connolly said the coroner, was failing in three main ways: delays in issuing death certificates, delays in sending blood samples to the lab, and sometimes not sending blood samples to the lab at all.
“The worst one of those was the guy who the coroner, got the blood sample, but delayed sending it to the lab for seven months. And that’s unacceptable,” says Connolly.
Delaying possible closure for families of those who’ve died.
“I mean, you know, did she die of a drug overdose or not, or where you know that we had a couple that were suspicious that we don’t know what happened. People have that added grief to their grief by something that should be should have been handled in a timely manner,” says Connolly.
Sheriff Rick Singleton said it’s crucial to have a reliable coroner for death investigations and criminal justice.
“I mean, it’s vital. You mishandle evidence and that evidence can be thrown out and cases of homicides. You know, that’s critical… You absolutely have to do it right and get it right,” said Singleton.
In Alabama, anyone can be elected to hold office as the county coroner. Connolly believes there are ways we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen in the future.
“My view is that we ought to have a medical examiner program statewide, they have those in the larger cities where you have to have some medical-type qualifications to become a coroner. And I think that would add to the quality of the work that they do,” said Connolly.
Impeachments can move quickly under Alabama law in an effort to remove an official from office. The court summons Tucker has received means he is due to face the charges on January 6. He has the right to ask for a jury trial.