KNOX COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — After news of the Knox County Coroner being arrested by Indiana State Police broke this morning we’ve learnt more about the situation.
Coroner Karen Donovan has been charged with possession of methamphetamine and fentanyl as well as official misconduct, police said.
Indiana State Police said in a release that an investigation started back in April of 2022. County leaders say that unrelated to the drug charges, they were already calling for her resignation from office. That request came from several complaints over failing to fulfill her duties.
Kellie Streeter, president of the Knox County Board of Commissioners, said that right after the 2020 election, they started receiving complaints regarding the coroner’s lack of response. Streeter said those complaints have been consistent over the past few years.
“But in the last year, the county has fielded many complaints from everyone from funeral homes to attorneys of deceased families, really, to people we see at the grocery store,” Streeter added.
Knox County Republican Chairman, David Shelton, said the party has been aware of issues within the coroner’s office for a long time.
“I’ve fielded many phone calls over the months and years of her apparent dereliction of duty,” he added.
Shelton said the situation came to head about two to three weeks ago, when a Deputy Coroner reached out to him.
“I then made arrangements for a phone conference between the council president, commissioners president, county attorney and this deputy. Got everybody on the same page and put together a game plan on what we can do about that,” Shelton said. “We then waited, I sent her a certified letter asking for her resignation in my capacity as a county chairman in the Republic Party,” he added.
On March 10th, 2023, Shelton mailed a certified letter to Coroner Donovan, requesting her resignation by March 17th, 2023. No resignation has been received.
Shelton said the first public mention of issues occurred last Tuesday at the County Commissioners meeting.
“They realized she had secured a storage unit for autopsy records, coroner files, personal effects of the deceased, as well as other coroner related supplies,” Shelton said.
The Deputy Coroner learned that the bill for the storage unit had not been paid since last December.
“The unit was actually scheduled to go up for auction this weekend,” Shelton said.
“We had to take engagement, just to make sure the records there were secure,” Streeter said.
Streeter said the county places administrative duties, where liability lies, upon the commissioners. She said the county is making sure that the bills are paid and there will be no lapse. She said for the community members still waiting, one by one they will be remediated.
“Even though she was just arrested last night, she is still the county coroner here in Knox County,” Shelton said.
“Until she’s convicted, until resignation, and the county will start procession to hopefully request judicial impeachment, she’s unfortunately still the acting coroner,” Streeter said
“Again, I’d like to ask her for to resign immediately so we can move on. And as a party, select a replacement to fill her unexpired term,” Shelton pleaded.
Streeter said county leaders intend to seek Judicial Removal of the Knox County Coroner Karen Donovan, as set forth in IC 5-8-1-1, at a business meeting set for April 4th.
Knox County Republican Party Chair David Shelton released a statement regarding a recent request for resignation sent to Donovan.
In part, the letter states that Donovan’s abandonment of her responsibilities is a betrayal to those who elected her.
The full statement can be read below;
WTWO will continue to follow this developing story.