Written By: Placer County Sheriff's Department
In Placer County, the Office of the Coroner was est. in 1851 with the creation of the County. It is the role of the elected Placer County Coroner to investigate deaths as well as make determinations as to manner of death, with the assistance of a forensic pathologist. The forensic pathologist determines the medical cause of death. The coroner serves the entire county, regardless of location. When a reportable death occurs in a city, it is the Placer County Coroner who conducts the death investigation. Because of this, we receive many calls from local police departments when a death occurs inside the city limits. Our deputies work alongside the cities’ police detectives when a suspicious death occurs in their jurisdiction. In 2018, the Coroner’s Unit investigated nearly 350 full coroner cases and an additional 673 reportable cases that didn’t require a full investigation. When the office was first created, the Coroner was a separate entity and not part of the Sheriff’s Office. That began to change in 1941 when Sheriff Elmer Gum died of natural causes while in office. The elected coroner at the time, Francis E. West, was appointed as acting-sheriff to fill the office until a new sheriff was elected. Perhaps that started a curse? Over the next 12 years, four sheriffs died in office. West’s replacement, Sheriff Charles Silva, died of natural causes in 1945 after being elected three years earlier, and West again filled the role of sheriff on an intern basis. Sheriff William Elam was elected in 1950, but was killed in the line of duty when his car plunged off a 100-foot cliff near Dollar Hill in North Lake Tahoe during bad￼ weather. He had only been elected ten months earlier. It was West who was again appointed to fill his role. Sheriff Charles Ward was elected to replace Elam, but died of natural causes in 1954 and West again was called to fill the role of sheriff for the fourth time. Sheriff William Scott was elected in 1955 and stability returned to the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Scott served as sheriff for the next 24 years.
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