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Family angry Brown County Coroner to stay on the job

BROWN COUNTY, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- Despite a petition calling for her removal, and a trial to try and achieve it, the Brown County Coroner will remain on the job.

That was the decision of a retired Montgomery County judge who heard the case and issued his decision Monday morning.  Steve and Rebecca Adamson weren't happy with Judge John Kessler's decision.

Rebecca said, "We're very disappointed.  I'm angry and disappointed."

The Adamson's filed a lawsuit against Brown County Coroner Dr. Judith Varnau that alleged her minimal investigation and quick decision of suicide in the death of their son Zach had forever deprived them of solid answers.  Their cries were echoed by other families as well, so much so that 2,300 people signed a petition to remove Varnau from office.  It was that petition that brought the case to court.

Rebecca said, "She's ruined our life.  I just wanted answers.  My son was worth more than 10  minutes of her time."

Judge Kessler wrote that while Varnau's mistakes and, "Failures amount to neglect, the court finds that the failures do not sufficiently make out clear convincing evidence of gross neglect."  "Gross neglect" was what was needed to remove Varnau from office.

Steve Adamson said, "There's standards, qualifications you have to have to forgive that because she doesn't really understand her job or she's not real good at it yet or how many times is she gonna practice before she gets good at it?"

Dr. Varnau's attorney, Thomas Eagle, said, "The judge appears to be putting at least equal responsibility for the inefficiency of county policies on the sheriff's office as the coroner's office.  I supposed someone could be said the sheriff's office is lucky he wasn't a defendant in a similar case."

Will things get better?  Eagle said, "I know for a fact she takes the whole thing as a learning experience and anyway she can improve her job for the county she's going to do it."

Dr. Varnau still has at least one civil suit based on the same sort of issues.  It is expected that more people may start filing cases against her.  There is talk of a possible appeal, but nothing solid at this point.

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