GENEVA – Kane County Coroner Rob Russell has been out collecting signatures, as he plans to seek the GOP nomination to run for a third term in November 2020.
“We’ve done a lot, but I still believe there is more to do,” Russell said.
Under Russell’s leadership, he and his team rewrote the office’s policy and procedural manual, and then became the first coroner’s office in Illinois to become accredited by the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners.
“Since then, Lake County Coroner’s Office became accredited. It’s the wave of the future,” Russell said. “If you come in compliance with accreditation standards, we are doing things the way the experts in the field say is the best way to do it – not the way I want to do it.”
The office will be going through the accreditation process next year, he said.
Also on the horizon is building a new coroner’s facility on the Kane County Judicial Center campus, which is something Russell said is something he would like to see through.
“I think there is something to be said about consistency,” Russell said. “Get this done, get it done right, see it through. It’s not a small undertaking, but my past leadership shows I’m the best one to see that happen.”
So far, the county officials appropriated $10 million for the project, he said.
“I’m doing everything I can to keep it within the $10 million,” Russell said. “If it’s less, great. And if it’s more, we’ll get a resolution and decide.”
Now that coroners and medical examiners have an independent board for the past three years – the Illinois Coroners and Medical Examiners Association – its goal is continuing education for coroners and deputy coroners, Russell said.
“It’s responsible to make sure all coroners and coroner’s offices are trained appropriately,” Russell said.
Russell is currently the president of the association’s board.
Once a new Kane County coroner’s facility is built, it could also serve as a location where other coroners could come and get industry specific training, Russell said.
Also under Russell’s leadership, the coroner’s office did a cold case unit resulting in reversing two incorrect manners of death.
One of Russell’s cold case investigations resulted in a conviction of Donnie Rudd in the first degree murder of his wife. Previously, the death of Rudd’s wife had been ruled accidental. Rudd, a former attorney, was convicted last year.
Another cold case investigation changed the 2011 cause of death for a 19-year-old Geneva resident Emma Mebane.
Russell said the previous cause of death had been listed as an accidental overdose, but after reviewing the toxicology report, her medicines were at their therapeutic levels, “not enough to kill her.”
The cause and manner of death was changed to undetermined, Russell said.
His thoughts on her sudden death are that after taking flights to London and back, she developed a pulmonary embolism – that is, a blood clot – from sitting on the plane.
But with no autopsy, there was no way to know for sure – except that it was not a drug overdose.
“It meant a lot to that family to know what may have caused her death, to know that she did not accidentally take too much of her medicine,” Russell said.
Also through his leadership were two union contracts that were negotiated without incident.
“I want my people to be happy,” Russell said “The subject matter is tough enough, I don’t want them to worry about the boss coming down on them every time they sneeze. I want the work environment to be where they do their job and feel supported.”