County Attorney: Kane Not Responsible for Suicide Reporting

Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle
Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle

In a memo issued late Tuesday from Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle's office, Redle officially made a Declination of Charges in the complaint by Sheridan County Coroner Mark Ferries against Kane Funeral Home.

Ferries filed a complaint with the Sheridan County Sheriff's Office the last week in August, after he had not been notified of the August 15th death of a Big Horn woman as an apparent suicide. It wasn't until several hours later that she succumbed to her injuries, and the hospital called the sheriff's office, but did not call Ferries. Hospital CEO Mike McCafferty has already accepted responsibility for what he terms a “misstep” on the part of the hospital. Kane was called, per the request of the woman's family, to claim the body after the sheriff's office completed investigation of the death.

In Redle's September 7th memo, he writes: “It is important to remember that the statutes set a floor and not a ceiling. Certainly the level of communication could have been better, more inclusive. In my experience, the hospital does not typically stop with a phone call to law enforcement, but might well contact the coroner as well. Similarly, the sheriff's office or other law enforcement agency might strictly constitute a 'coroner's case'...

“...With respect to the question of whether Kane Funeral Home violated the statute regarding the duty to report, it is clear that it did not. In construing criminal statutes, such statutes are to be strictly construed in favor of the accused. This means that the language of the statute is not to be enlarged by implication, inference or construction. Kane was not the party who 'discovered the death.' Therefore, the obligation to report did not extend to it.”

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