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Dear Editor:

During my tenure as Chaffee County sheriff, I frequently worked with the coroner, Randy Amettis, and his chief deputy, Jeff Graf.

Both men understood and appreciated their critical roles in the justice system, were unrelentingly professional in carrying out their duties, thoroughly knowledgeable and skilled in their work, and just as importantly, compassionate and sensitive in their interactions with those affected by the death of a loved one.

The role of a county coroner is to determine the cause and manner of death. Cause is defined as homicide, suicide, accidental, natural or, in rare cases, undetermined. Manner of death means, for example, gunshot, drug overdose, heart attack and the like.

A coroner DOES NOT determine motive or intent nor does he conduct the investigation into the circumstances leading to the deceased’s demise. That is the role of law enforcement: sheriff and police investigators, sometimes assisted by the district attorney, who, in homicide cases, identify a suspect and prepare the prosecution’s case for trial.

Although the coroner is a crucial collaborator in this process, the system works best when all participants understand their respective roles and cooperate with one another but refrain from injecting themselves into the sphere of responsibility of others within the system.

In practice, the coroner fulfills an additional and important function. It is the coroner who notifies the relatives of the deceased, who comforts them and advises them on issues critically important to them at the time – the disposition of the body, options for burial or cremation, financial considerations and the like.

In this role, Jeff Graf excels. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, highly trained and experienced in death investigations, sensitive to the feelings of those affected by death, respected by his colleagues in law enforcement and deeply committed to his community.

I urge the voters in Chaffee County to continue the legacy so admirably established by Randy Amettis and to elect his deputy, Jeff Graf, as your coroner.

Pete Palmer
Chaffee County Sheriff, retired