-Sheppard honored by Georgia Coroners Association
It's not a job for everyone.
But Lumpkin County Coroner Jim Sheppard is available at all hours of the day to help families during the most trying times of their lives.
Sheppard, along with Deputy Coroner Frank Goss, is tasked with responding to all non-attended deaths in the county (those that are not under a doctor's care).
"We determine the cause and manner of death," Sheppard said. "And we assist the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office and Fire-EMS."
He said by law no one is allowed to touch the body of the deceased until either he or Goss is there to pronounce them clinically dead.
For this reason, time is critical as they get to a scene as soon as they can.
Often, Sheppard finds himself in the position of helping families deal with the unexpected needs that arise during such a difficult time.
We work with the decedent's family on which funeral home they want them to go."
Sheppard added that he and Goss are always careful not to refer families to one specific funeral home in such cases.
If someone comes from out of state and passes away in the county, the local coroner's office is responsible for coordinating with families to get the decedent back home.
For these reasons and more, Sheppard was named the 2018 Coroner of the Year by the Georgia Coroners Association at the recent convention in Macon.
He was nominated by Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard.
Jarrard said Sheppard has gone above and beyond in his work with the LCSO, helping investigators with anything they need.
"They show up in a timely manner and help family members with cases," Jarrard said.
In addition, Jarrard pointed out Sheppard's involvement in community programs.
"I knew about the nomination and I was appreciative that the sheriff thought so highly of me," Sheppard said.
However, he said he had no idea he would win.
"I was very humbled. If not for my family I would not be able to do what I do," Sheppard said.
Goss knew about the award but had to keep it a secret from Sheppard for three weeks.
He also had to find a way to get Sheppard's family to Macon for the Georgia Coroners Convention.
Goss was going to receive a service medal at the convention and used that as an excuse to invite everyone.
"This is a very prestigious award (1 out of 154 coroners in Georgia)," Goss said. "I am extremely proud of Jim and how far he has come in a short time."
NOT ALL THE SAME
"Some cases are simpler than others," Sheppard said.
For example, there can be many subpoenas for medical records involved in a case.
"It's not just about showing up and going home at the end of the day," he said.
Sheppard estimated that each death takes about 20-24 work hours (and many require more). In addition, they are usually working two to three cases at a time.
"Our bottom line is we just want things done correctly," Sheppard said. "If we don't do things the right way to start with it will cause more work in the end."
Goss said they are continually working on gaining the citizens confidence and trust.
"Every call we make and home we go into, that family is at the lowest point of their life. You have to treat them with compassion," Goss said.
Respect for all families is a big part of the job.
"Frank and I will always treat everyone with dignity and respect," Sheppard said. "At the end of the day death knows no political party. We are serious about taking care of our people. And we are proud of it."