Coroners across the state are learning to improve investigations

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - According to an FBI crime report study, 6,000 murder investigations go cold every year. That's why it's important for those involved in investigations to stay up to date with the latest technology and techniques. This week in Biloxi, coroners and deputy coroners from across the state are doing just that at their annual conference.

Coroners are called to the scene as soon as a death is reported. It's their job to determine how the person died.

"There are very few people in the world that actually do this type of work," Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said. "So this is an opportunity for us to get together, share some information with each other, and learn from each other's experiences."

The coroners also explore tools available to them, like the Medical Examiner's Office. State Medical Examiner Dr. Mark LeVaughn believes it is important for coroners to utilize their services.

"The state hasn't had a structured relationship with coroners and medical examiners in years," Dr. LeVaughn said. "I think they do a good job when I got here, but I think it's improved just for the fact we can interact with them and make ourselves available to them 24 hours a day."

Technology is also helpful to coroners and others involved in investigations. One of the newest things being introduced this week is a crime scene app for smart phones. The Forensic Institute for Research and Education Director Dr. Hugh Berryman helped develop the app with a grant from the Bureau of Justice.

"It can help with the evidence you have on a crime scene," Dr. Berryman said, "because there is probably some very significant information that gets lost in the first few minutes of a scene. If you can get that and you can document that and are able to collect that in such a way you can take it all the way to the courtroom, it can be very valuable."

The app has just been tested by law enforcement agencies across the country and has received positive feedback. Dr. Berryman hopes by talking about it to coroners in Mississippi they can use it and get others in investigations to try the app.

The public is also a vital tool in investigations because many times it's the average citizen that spots a death first.

"Please don't try to remove anything," Grisham-Stewart said. "Just make proper notification to the authorities, then we will come and process the scene and do what we need to do to answer the questions as to what has happened at the scene and what produced this individual's death."

Nearly 100 coroners attended the conference in Biloxi. When it is over, the coroners expect what they learn will help them do a better job of solving investigations in our state.

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