Coroner candidates Hackley and Bryant face of in Chamber forum

Published 11:17 am Friday, April 26, 2024

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The Republican primary candidates for Troup County Coroner faced off on Tuesday in an election forum hosted by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

Incumbent Coroner Erin Hackley squared off against challenger Clay Bryant for the Republican nomination for the position. No other candidates have qualified to run for the office.

Bryant is a former paramedic, Georgia State Trooper, criminal investigator and Hogansville police chief. He currently works as an author having published books on cold case murders he helped solve. 

Hackley is currently serving her first term is Troup County Coroner. Prior to being elected as coroner, she served as chief deputy coroner under Jeff Cook. Hackley also continues to serve as a paramedic since 2008.

Some of the topics covered in the question and answer portion of the forum include:


The candidates were asked what is the importance of the role of the coroner in a community.

Hackley said the primary role is investigating deaths but it’s also important to be there for families.

“The coroner is responsible for determining cause and manner of death. But we also have to make sure that families are taken care of this is a time in their lives when they are having their worst day. It’s very important that we make sure that in addition to doing the determination of cause and manner [of death] that we also make sure the families are taken care of,” Hackley said.

“The coroner’s role is to ensure, not only to establish cause manner of death but to establish that things are what they appear to be. That must be executed with kindness and compassion,” Bryant said.


The candidates were also asked how they plan to ensure impartiality and accuracy in determining causes of death.

“In any investigation, you have to look at all the evidence and in the case of a death, a lot depends on the death and how it happened. And you need to look at the circumstance and the situation that surrounds the death, not only just the mechanics of it but if there might be some underlying factor that needs to be looked into,” Bryant said.

That would be any type of violent death or things that were determined to be an accident, he said.

“For natural cause deaths, generally, that would be pretty well be determined by the medical examiner. However, in some situations, especially in cases like ethylene glycol poisoning or something like that. You have to look a little deeper and see if there might be some motive that somebody might have had to speed up a death. But those will be rare,” Bryant said.

Hackley said help from the GBI also aids impartiality and accuracy.

“We can always lean on the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the Medical Examiner’s Office. If we have any questions we can call and can talk to them,” Hackley said.

Hackley said her office also does a toxicology report on every deceased in Troup County who dies outside of a medical doctor’s care. She said it’s also important to not make assumptions before investigating a death.

“You don’t show up with bias, you show up planning to investigate it once you get there,” Hackley said.


The candidates were also asked what they would implement to improve communication and collaboration with law enforcement.

“For the most part, we have a pretty decent relationship with law enforcement. It can always be better, just as with anything, but as long as you leave an open line of communication, it works pretty well. Especially with the departments that include us heavily in the investigation,” Hackley said.

“The investigation of the coroner’s office and law enforcement, they’re independent of each other, but they’re run parallel. There has to be a professional relationship between the two to ensure that no evidence may be contaminated, or that one investigation doesn’t overreach into the other. The best way to do that is having an open line of communication, and to ensure that no stone is left unturned,” Bryant said.


The candidates were asked how they handle cases involving controversial deaths, ensuring both sensitivity and adherence to professional standards.

“That’s something that you’d have to evaluate at the time. Anything that you can in good faith release to the public — because they want to know— is going to be beneficial. But you have to look at the situation and ensure that the information that you release is not going to harm the investigation or the outcome of whatever that investigation leads you to,” Bryant said.

“As long as the situation and the death the evidence and facts of it are amenable to be released, they should be. But again, you need to take into consideration the feelings and the family’s wishes, and the people that love that person who is no longer with us,” Bryant said.

Byrant said it’s part of the coroner’s job to provide some information to the public.

“We do it every day. When media calls and asks for information, we release the name, the location where the decedent lives and their age and we always follow up with something to the effect of so-and-so police department will be issuing a press release,” Bryant said.

That way it keeps us out of conflict of interest and keeps contradictory information out, she said.