Behind The Badge: Winnebago County Coroner Discusses Dealing With Tragic Deaths

More than 400 bodies are taken to the morgue each year.

Winnebago County - Inside the Winnebago County Morgue, there's a small room with four white walls, where family members are brought to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

County Coroner Bill Hintz says that, so far this year, there's been a lot of pain, disbelief, and anger within these walls as families identify their dead loved ones through the glass.

"We have people that are so angry that they punch the walls. we have people that cry in disbelief, they pass out, they have to sit on the couch," said Hintz.

So far in 2017, there's been 89 drug overdose deaths, already expected to surpass last year's total of 96 deaths.

"Right now, we're averaging about two overdose deaths a week," Hintz says.

Not to mention the victims of tragedy Hintz sees, like the body of 12-year-old Donavan Ruland, who was shot and killed in Rockford in May, and Loves Park woman Emily Dull-Anderson, whose body was found in her submerged car in the Rock River.

"I need to be there for that family. If I start breaking down on the scene, the way I look at it is, I'm not going to do [the family] a whole lot of good. I need to be strong for them, to help them get through, and then take personal time when I'm off duty to have my moment of, holy smokes."

Hintz is also responsible for bodies that are never claimed. The county covers cremation fees of about $1,100 per body, to ensure everyone who passes away is treated with respect and dignity, something he says the public doesn't often think about.  

"The individuals, where we get a hold of next of kin, they let us know that they haven't seen their loved one in 30-40 years, they really want nothing to do with them."

In his 20 years working within the Coroner's office, Hintz says the pain and suffering of each family is something he takes very seriously.

"I'm responsible for writing that last chapter and how very important it is. It's not just a cookie-cutter death. Every death is very important to me, to make sure I get it right and correct for that family."    

Hintz says his office also provides space for other smaller counties to perform autopsies as well.


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