The county’s Finance Committee granted the two county coroners an extra $10,000 to cover this year’s unforeseen expenses, which included two double homicides.
Coroners Joseph Riley and Susan Quackenbush are budgeted $25,000 a year to cover expenses such as autopsies. This year, however, the original budget has already been spent and County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman said the extra money might not last to the end of the year.
“It all depends on how many people die under circumstances where autopsies have to be ordered,” he said.
Riley didn’t have an estimate of how many autopsies have been ordered in the county this year, but said the number is not as important as the circumstances of each death.
“It’s been a bad year for the coroners,” Bowerman said. “We’ve had two double murders in the same year.”
In March, William McDermott, 56, and Cheryl Goss, 46, were found stabbed to death in McDermott’s 359 Locust Ave. apartment in Amsterdam. Detective Lt. Kurt J. Conroy said the crime is still under investigation with no suspects he can currently name.
In early July, 13-year-old Jonathan Dejesus and 16-year-old Paul Damphier were shot to death in the town of Florida. Matt Phelps, 15, and Anthony Brasmeister, 16, are charged with the killings.
Most autopsies Riley orders are carried out locally at St. Mary’s Hospital. However, with higher profile murders, the State Police usually demand a more thorough procedure, he said.
“It adds so much cost,” he said. “The autopsies are much more complex. There’s a lot of lab work, full toxicology.”
An autopsy at St. Mary’s costs between $750 and $1,000, but the recent double murder victims had to be sent to the more advanced facilities at Albany Medical Center, which “easily doubled the cost and more,” Riley said.
The killings alone took up most of the year’s budget, according to Bowerman.
Also, early this summer a Fort Plain man was stuck in his burning truck after loosing control of the vehicle on state Highway 80. The driver, Todd E. Oldick, 43, could not be identified at the scene because of the fire.
The accident was not as high profile as the killings, but dental records had to be checked and an autopsy carried out to confirm Oldick’s identity.
Trying to budget for autopsies is more a mater of hope than planning, according to Bowerman. “It’s an expense you can’t avoid.”