Meet the County Coroner candidates: Tony Gasparini and Jennifer Muraski

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Tony Gasparini and Jennifer Muraski are running for Winnebago County Coroner.

Jennifer Muraski and Tony Gasparini are running for Winnebago County Coroner in the November 8 election. We asked each candidate to tell us their plans and qualifications for the office.

The reputation of the Winnebago Coroner's office was clouded by former coroner Bill Hintz, who resigned this year after pleading guilty to theft of government property and official misconduct by forgery/altering documents. He and his wife were charged with stealing from dead people and swindling their families. Both Muraski and Gasparini want to restore trust and morale in the coroner's office.

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.


Jennifer Muraski

Jennifer Muraski

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.


Tony Gasparini

Tony Gasparini

What are your qualifications for County Coroner?

I was the 2nd Ward Alderman in Rockford, where I voted for the Casino, kept property taxes stable and supported our police and fire departments. My volunteer career began in high school, where I volunteered at Janet Wattles. I then went on to be an advocate for the Red Cross Homeless Shelter where I volunteered for over 8 years and served on their board for 3. More recently, I served on the Shelter Care Ministries Board, Veterans Drop in Center Board, Wesley Willows Fund Development Board and now serve as President of the Rockford Public Library Foundation Board, where we are raising funds for the new library. 

I’m a funeral director and a business owner. I currently work for Cremation Society of Illinois, and I also own my own funeral home, Tony Gasparini Funerals. I was instilled with a strong work ethic when I was very young. My family owned Bing’s Drive-In in South Rockford for over 30 years, and the whole family had to pitch in. Through that experience, I learned the value of hard work, and what it means to the community to operate a local business.

Why are you running?

For Change. My main goal as coroner is to reestablish trust in the office. I will accomplish this by leaning on my strong morals, my civic efficacy, and being transparent with the public.



What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

That leads me to my second goal: educating the public. Not only do I want there to be trust in this office, but I want people to understand what it is I do, and what we accomplish at the County Coroner’s office. Finally, I want to bring a set of fresh eyes to the department. My unique experiences in politics, volunteering, and work have given me a distinctive skill set that will bring new perspectives and ideas to the office.

Anything else you want to say?

I have had a generally successful career as a funeral director. My success in this career has come from my empathy and sympathy, as I have had to help families traverse through their darkest moments. I will bring that same care, compassion, and honesty to the County Coroner position. On top of this, I have a strong business sense that lends me efficiency, hard work, and persistence. These traits will directly translate to this position. And finally, my political and volunteer experience has given me first-hand knowledge of what this community needs and deserves. These characteristics make me the ideal choice for County Coroner.

Also...

I’m a lifelong Winnebago County resident. Born on the South side of Rockford, I eventually graduated from Boylan along with my future wife. She went on to become a Rockford Public School teacher, while I became a funeral director like my father. We raised 3 sons in Rockford: our two oldest attended Boylan, while my youngest attended Auburn. My eldest son has been in the US Navy for over 6 years. My middle son works for UPS and is a member of the Teamsters. My youngest just graduated from DePaul with his master’s degree.


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