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Hearing to remove coroner from office in Brown County begins

BROWN COUNTY, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- A local coroner's job hangs in the balance in Brown County as a case to remove her from office begins Wednesday in Georgetown.

Dr. Judith Varnau took the job in December of 2012 and she's been under fire ever since.  The first witness in the case against the coroner was the coroner herself, Dr. Judith Varnau.  The issue is whether she should be removed from office due to the way she's handled multiple cases.

2,300 people signed a petition saying she should.  They point to situations like the death of Zach Adamson, shot in the head with a shotgun.  While the case is still pending with state investigators,
Varnau admitted Wednesday she wiped the dead mans face clean, possibly destroying evidence.  And she left the weapon with his roommate even though he would be a prime suspect if the death turned out to be murder.

On the stand the coroner testified she did it, "Because the Sheriff's Department would not take it.  That was my best solution because they would not take it."

The Sheriff's Department wouldn't "take" the gun because state statute requires the coroner to "deliver" the weapon to them.  Varnau's attorney, Thomas Eagle, got a deputy to admit the Sheriff's policy of not investigating death scenes until the coroner declares them a homicide or suicide is absurd.

Everyone there agrees the policy is absurd.  But even the Chief Deputy says his department developed the policy and got it approved by the prosecutor because the Sheriff couldn't get any cooperation from the coroner. 

The coroner's attorney was clearly trying to put the sheriff's policy on trial.  In a surprise move the attorneys trying to oust Varnau rested their case after just 2 witnesses and Wednesday afternoon.  Varnau's defense began.

Sheriff's investigators topped the list of nearly 2 dozen defense witnesses.  Over and over again the policy and lack of cooperation between the departments came under fire.  When the defense continues on day 2 it is expected to see the Brown County Sheriff, Dwayne Wenninger, Dr. Varnau's primary nemesis, on the witness stand.

Doctor Varnau's husband, Dennis, has run unsuccessfully against Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger in elections.  He's also challenged Wenninger's qualifications and lost the argument every time.

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