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March 22, 2013

Coroners, police keep up to date: Area’s unique cases discussed at law enforcement gathering

JOHNSTOWN — Trends in drug cases and reviewing autopsy findings and homicide cases were some of the topics discussed Friday at the annual Spring Law Enforcement Seminar.

It is the 11th year the Cambria County Coroner’s Office has sponsored the seminar, which was held at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Richland Township.

About 70 representatives from coroners’ offices and police department in 17 counties in Pennsylvania participated, Chief Deputy Coroner Jeffrey Lees said.

“It brings education right into our backyard,” Lees said. “It gives coroners an opportunity to get together and discuss unique cases they’ve seen the past year.”

 Judy Pleskonko, chief deputy coroner for Centre County, talked about sexual assault cases.

Indiana County Coroner Michael A. Baker lectured on post-mortem interval, which is determining how much time has passed since the person died.

“Sharing knowledge is probably the most important aspect of education,” Lees said.

 Dr. Francisco Diaz, assistant medical examiner in Wayne County, Mich., discussed trends in drug cases, including bath salts, and autopsies for homicide victims and children.

“It’s disheartening to see the number of babies that are dying from shaken-baby syndrome and the extent of the investigation that is needed to get a conviction,” said West Hills police Sgt. George Musulin III.

The daylong seminar gave police a better understanding of how a cause of death is determined.

“You realize how much you know and how much you have to learn,” Musulin said.

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