Background of The Coroner in Orange County

When the County of Orange was founded in 1889, I.D. Mills became the County's first Coroner/Public Administrator. The partnership between these two branches of government existed until 1965 when a county ordinance separated the Coroner and Public Administrator functions. Five years later in 1970, the Coroner's Office underwent further changes when the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to co-join the Office of Coroner and the Office of Sheriff, making it the 31st Sheriff-Coroner Department in California on January 4, 1971. Today, the vast majority of the 58 counties in the state are Sheriff-Coroner systems.

A Timeline of the Coroner in Orange County


August 1st, County of Orange founded.

July 7th, I.D. Mills is elected the first Coroner/Public Administrator

Population: 13,689


January 1st, Frank Ely begins his term as Coroner/Public Administrator


August 28th, Earl Abbey is elected Coroner/Public Administrator.


Coroner Staff 1953

 (Left to right) Chief Deputy, Frank G. Hanson; Autopsy Surgeon, Raymond A. Brandt, M. D.; Coroner, Earl R. Abbey;

 Secretary, Gladys Cheleen; Deputy, Roger S. Burnham; Deputy, Walter L. Fox


Population: 703,925
Total county deaths: 4,433
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 1,201

Raymond A. Brandt, M.D. is elected Coroner/Public Administrator.

Coroner Facility 1960

Orange County Coroner Facility circa 1960


Population: 775,000
Total county deaths: 5,972
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 3,145

Board of Supervisors vote to separate the offices of Public Administrator and Coroner.


Raymond A. Brandt, M.D. becomes Coroner of Orange County.


Coroner Brandt seeks a centralized morgue.

Coroner seeks centralized morgue

"Recent grand jury panels have consistently cited a need for the central morgue but none went into the details as thoroughly as the 1965 panel headed by James Holm  of Fullerton. It termed the system of traveling to the mortuaries "archaic, costly and inefficient." It urged creation of the central morgue, claiming it would save $622,709 over five years."


Population: 1,420,386
Total county deaths: 8,549
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 4,280

No centralized morgue facility exists. Autopsy examinations are performed at various local mortuaries with the exception of homicides which are conducted at the Orange County Medical Center (now University of California at Irvine Medical Center). Coroner investigators and support staff are housed on Civic Center Drive, in Santa Ana.


January 4th, Office of Sheriff and Coroner co-joined to create Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department, making it the 31st county in the state to use the Sheriff-Coroner system.

James A. Musick

Sheriff James A. Musick (elected in 1947) becomes the County's first Sheriff-Coroner.

Coroner Investigators

Orange County Coroner's Investigators are, front row, left, Jim Bricker, Bill Minick, Chief Deputy Eugene Miller and Jack Cale; back row, left Ron Stanzak, Russ Greene, John Gill, Joe Stevens and Senior Investigator Jim Beisner. Beisner would later become the Chief Deputy Coroner.


Interview with Coroner Investigators

The Daily Pilot interviews Coroner Investigators Bill Minick and Jim Beisner.


Coroner Division Moves to Headquarters Building

The Coroner Division staff moves to the Headquarters Building at 550 N. Flower, Santa Ana. Autopsy examinations continue to be conducted at various mortuaries throughout the county.

Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates

Brad Gates is elected Sheriff-Coroner.


Population: 1,590,832
Total county deaths: 9,885
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 4,884


April 26th, based on recommendations by Sheriff Gates, the Board of Supervisors approves the construction of a central morgue and forensic laboratory facility west of the county jail in Santa Ana.


Chief Deputy Coroner Jim Beisner

James D. Beisner is appointed Chief Deputy
Coroner in charge of the Coroner Division.


Population: 1,932,709
Total county deaths: 11,736
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 4,773


New Forensic Science Building 1981

Construction is completed at 1071 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana .

September 1st, the Orange County Forensic Science Center opens for business. The 9,953 square foot state-of-the-art facility contains a centralized morgue and toxicology lab.


The Orange County Register spotlights the Forensic Science Center's Forensic Pathologists.

Orange County Forensic Pathologists 1984

Larry Ragle, left, County Director of Forensic Science, Jim Beisner, center, Chief Deputy Coroner, and Dr. Walter Fischer, seek the sometimes elusive cause of death to aid police in their work.


Population: 2,216,601
Total county deaths: 13,031
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 6,047

Coroner Management Staff 1985

Coroner Division Management Staff; James Beisner, Barbara Mitchell, Richard Rodriguez and Bill Lystrup


First Death Investigation Course designed specifically for deputy coroner investigative personnel is sponsored by the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department.

FSC Building houses County's first DNA Lab 1989

November 1st, one of the country's first DNA labs is housed inside the Forensic Science Center building.


Population: 2,410,556
Total county deaths: 14,617
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 6,972

The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training certifies the Coroner Basic Death Investigation Course.


County ordinance #3857 is approved by the Board of Supervisors which states that deputy coroners must adhere to standards for selection and training as established by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.)


Hutton Towers 1993

August 22nd, the Sheriff's toxicology and DNA laboratories is relocated to the newly built Hutton Towers (now the Brad Gates Building).


Coroner Division receives POST Certificate

The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training certifies that the Orange County Coroner Division adheres to the standard for the selection and training of peace officers.


Population: 2,614,800
Total county deaths: 15,194
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 8,058


December 4th, after 37 years of distinguished service with the County of Orange, Chief Deputy Coroner Jim Beisner retires.

Chief Deputy Coroner Jacque Berndt

December 5th, Jacque Berndt becomes the new Chief Deputy Coroner.


Sheriff Brad Gates retires after serving the citizens of Orange County for 37 years. The final 24 years of his eminent service are spent as the elected Sheriff of Orange County.

Sheriff-Coroner Michael S. Carona

January 4th, newly elected Sheriff-Coroner Michael S. Carona is sworn in.

The Coroner Basic Death Investigation Course celebrates its 10 year anniversary. Approximately 920 Deputy Coroners from throughout the state, the nation and as far away as the British Virgin Islands have been trained.


Population: 2,813,833
Total county deaths: 16,774
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 8,148

Orange County receives $10,000,000 from the State of California to build the Statewide Coroner Training Facility. The County of Orange contributes $5,000,000 to the design of this $15,000,000 state-of-the-art facility.

Proposed Statewide Coroner Training Facility

November, floor plan design of the new 52,000 square foot facility begins.


Temporary location during construction of Statewide Training Center

May 4th, Coroner operations is relocated to a temporary location during construction of the Statewide Training Center.


Construction of Statewide Training Facility

April, construction of Statewide Coroner Training Facility is well underway.


New Coroner Facility 2004

March 17, Coroner Division moves into newly built California Coroner Training Center.

May 3, first official statewide training class is held.

August 6, Richard L. Rodriguez is selected as Chief Training Officer.


Population: 2,957,263
Total county deaths: 17,232
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 10,910


Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens

June 10, Sandra Hutchens is appointed Sheriff-Coroner by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Since the California Coroner Training Center opened its doors in 2004, 1,177 death investigation professionals from virtually every county in the state and parts of Nevada and Arizona have received first rate training from the Training Center’s cadre of elite instructors and subject matter experts.


Population: 3,010,232
Total county deaths: 17,704
Deaths investigated by Coroner: 9,121

June 8, Sheriff Hutchens is decisively elected by the people of Orange County.

Sheriff on Election Night 2010


March 31, Chief Deputy Coroner Jacque J. Berndt retires after almost 30 years of service with the County of Orange.