Meet Winnebago County Coroner Jennifer Muraski


Jennifer Muraski, Winnebago County Coroner

Jennifer Muraski is running unopposed this time for Winnebago County Coroner in the March 19, 2024 Republican primary election. She won a full term in the November 2022 election. One of her accomplishments is making it possible for homicide victims to be organ donors, if they requested that before their deaths.

According to Illinois law, one of the County Coroner's main jobs is to investigate all deaths that are sudden, violent, accidental, suspicious, obscure, mysterious, or otherwise unexplained. The coroner's office is required to look into any death caused by domestic violence, drugs or alcohol. State law also requires an investigation into all deaths of children who are wards of the State, as well as those that happen in State institutions or under State supervision. They file reports on sudden unexpected infant death and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). In general, the County Coroner takes note of any death not attended by a physician.

Newly-elected coroners must go through the Coroner Training Board coroners training program, and take at least 24 hours of continuing education each year. Coroners aren't medical doctors, but they make sure that samples of blood, urine, and DNA are collected when necessary. They arrange autopsies and toxicological exams.

A coroner is a "conservator of the peace" in his or her county, with the same law enforcement powers as the sheriff. An important part of a coroner's job is to determine whether someone died as a result of foul play. A coroner can arrest people. Illinois law says that the coroner and the sheriff can fill in for each other if necessary, but fortunately, in Winnebago County it usually isn't.

Once county coroners are satisfied as to the cause of death, they are responsible for issuing death certificates and cremation permits. They are also responsible for the decent disposal of any bodies that are not claimed by family or friends.

When Jennifer Muraski was running for office in 2022, we asked her about her qualifications and vision for the office.

What are your qualifications for County Coroner?

I have 27 years of experience as a funeral director/embalmer here in Winnebago County, caring for families in their time of need. I was hired as Director of Operations of the Coroner’s Office in March of this year and then was appointed Coroner by the County Board on August 11th.

I have the educational background and experience that lends itself to the job. For six weeks, I was brought into California to assist in the caring of victims of the pandemic and that experience has been invaluable in my role as coroner.

Why are you running?

I’ve always known that the position of County Coroner was a position that interested me. My experience over the last seven months has reaffirmed this notion. I am committed to the office and to the people of Winnebago County. I love my job and very much enjoy my role as a part of the criminal justice system providing information and evidence to law enforcement.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

This office was damaged by the previous Coroner. Specifically, there were financial crimes committed in the office and the victims were the taxpayers and the family members of those who trusted the previous coroner. I will always respect the people I serve, the people of Winnebago County - they deserve better. As I’ve proven in the last several months, I am committed to bringing back trust and accountability to the office.

I also have three major objectives moving the office forward; taking a deep dive into the opioid crisis that is tearing into our community, addressing the alarming rise in teen suicides, and strengthening our relationships with organ and tissue donation organizations.

Anything else you want to say?

The actions of our previous Coroner left a black eye on the office, damaging the culture and morale of the staff. After being in office for seven months, I know that the deputies are good people. I will continue to build up and encourage these public servants who are fiercely committed to the office and to the people.

I am also proud to have the confidence and support of the Winnebago County Sheriff, Gary Caruana, and the Chairman, Joseph Chiarelli.

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