County Coroner

County Coroner

Jerry Hensley – Coroner
1 Broad Street, Suite 4
Ellijay, GA 30540
phone: 706-889-4100

Melissa Waddell – Deputy Coroner
1 Broad Street, Suite 4
Ellijay, GA 30540
phone: 706-273-8085

Brian Nealey – Deputy Coroner
1 Broad Street, Suite 4
Ellijay, GA 30540
phone: 706-273-4735


Where is my loved one taken?

In most cases, the deceased is released to a funeral home of the family’s choice. Should a funeral home be unavailable to receive the deceased, the Coroner’s Office will arrange transportation to the county cooler located on the grounds of Logan Funeral Home.

If further examination is required, i.e. autopsy, the deceased is transported to the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office.

Autopsies are conducted at the headquarters laboratory in Decatur, Georgia. Upon completion of all investigations, the Coroner’s Office will release the deceased to the funeral home of the family’s choosing.

Why is the Coroner’s Office involved?

State Law requires the Coroner to be notified when a death occurs under certain circumstances. The Coroner performs an investigation and arrives at the cause and manner of death, and either completes or arranges the completion of the death certificate. Georgia Law requires the County Coroner to investigate the circumstances and determine the cause and manner of death of all deaths that are:

  • Sudden, when a person is in apparent good health
  • Not under the care of a physician
  • Suspicious, unusual, or unexplained
  • The result of violence
  • Unlawful or due to criminal neglect
Will an autopsy be performed?

Autopsies are performed when an additional investigation is needed to establish the cause and manner of death. Autopsies are ALWAYS performed in suspected homicides. Staff pathologists or specialized forensic pathologists are used for autopsies. Each case is unique and handled respectfully on an individual basis. Family consent is not required for an autopsy to be performed. It is the authority of the coroner, in consultation with the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office, to order an autopsy.

What is an autopsy?

An autopsy is a post-mortem medical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of the body in order to determine or assist in determining the cause and manner of a person’s death. It can also provide information on the presence of diseases or injuries that may have been contributing to mortality factors. An autopsy is performed by a pathologist or forensic pathologist.

How long before my loved one is released from the Coroner’s Office?

Each case is unique, but under normal circumstances, a case not involving autopsy will result in release within 24 hours. Depending on what time of day the county Coroner’s office is notified and takes jurisdiction, the medical information available to the Coroner at that time, and the circumstances surrounding the death, the body may be released the same day or later on the next day. In cases of suspicious deaths or deaths that require further investigation, your loved one’s remains may be held for additional time.

If an autopsy is required, the investigation may take considerably longer, particularly if the identification of the individual is an issue. You are always welcome to contact the county Coroner to inquire about the status of your case.

Am I required to identify the body?

The identity of the deceased is usually determined through methods other than visual identification by family or acquaintances, and a visual ID is not required. Only in very rare cases are such identifications required. In the majority of cases, visual identification is not required. If visual identification is required, you will be notified by the Coroner’s office.

Is viewing allowed?

The Coroner’s Office strongly discourages viewing prior to the deceased being released to a funeral home. Should a decedent require further investigation by the medical examiner, no viewing is permitted. This process is required for maintaining proper medical-legal protection.

How will I get my loved one’s personal possessions back?

Personal effects that are on the body in a coroner’s case are the jurisdiction of the Coroner’s Office. Other personal effects that may be collected on the scene are part of the evidence collection by the involved law enforcement agency (e.g. Sheriff’s Office or City Police Department). All coroner case personal effects are logged and accounted for and are released with the body. There are specific chain-of-custody procedures for the release of valuables. Occasionally clothing will need to be stored as evidence or disposed of if it presents a biohazard.

Will I still be able to have an open casket service if an autopsy is performed?

YES – Autopsies are performed in a professional manner that does not interfere with the viewing of the deceased in a normal manner.

Who contacts the funeral home?

Once you have selected a funeral home, please let them know that the body is under the jurisdiction of the Coroner. Once a funeral home is selected, you must call the Coroner as soon as possible to inform them of your choice. The Gilmer County Coroner’s office will then contact the funeral home when the body is ready for release.

Do I have to pay for an autopsy to be done?

NO – There is no charge to the family for autopsies performed under the Coroner’s jurisdiction.

Why are tubes and other medical devices left in place on the body?

Part of the autopsy is to investigate the proper application of therapeutic devices. Blood, soil and other material may sometimes not be allowed to be washed off as it may hinder the investigation.

How do I obtain a certified copy of the death certificate?

The Coroner’s office does not issue copies of the death certificate. Copies can be requested from the funeral home when arrangements are made. As a courtesy to the family, funeral homes offer to obtain the certificates from the Gilmer County Probate Court, 706-635-4763. The Probate Court charges a fee for each copy, and any additional copies may be obtained directly from them. The State of Georgia charges $25.00 for the first copy and $5.00 for each additional copy of the death certificate.

When will the autopsy report be ready and how do I obtain a copy?

Autopsy reports are generally available three (3) to four (4) months from the date of death. The results of toxicology and other studies can take longer. One copy of the autopsy report is available at The Georgia Bureau of Investigations’ Open Records Department. Immediate next of kin means one of the following in this order: spouse, adult child, parent, brother/sister, or niece/nephew. Please submit your request in writing to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Open Records Office.

Open Records Unit
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
3121 Panthersville Road
Decatur, Georgia 30034


Fax your request to 404-270-8529


Email your request to

What should I do now?

As soon as possible, a funeral home must be selected to handle funeral arrangements for the deceased. These professionals are aware of the difficulties you are experiencing and the stresses that you are under and will assist you with arrangements.

When you contact the funeral director, advise them that the deceased is under the Coroner’s jurisdiction. The funeral director will, in turn, contact our office and make arrangements to pick up your loved one.

What if I can’t afford funeral arrangements?

If your loved one did not have burial funds, the next-of-kin may ask for assistance in government and private sources. Your funeral home can provide you that information.

What about military benefits?

People who served in the Armed Forces may be entitled to veterans benefits. Seek more information from the Veterans Administration (VA) at Your funeral home will also be able to assist with this.

For more information, please consult the GBI Medical Examiner’s website at

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