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Knox County coroner lands in jail for drugs and missing work

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana State police have charged Knox County coroner Karen Donovan, 40, with three felonies: Two for drug possession, and one for official misconduct.

The arrest comes months after complaints that Donovan had stopped coming to work 

On Thursday morning, I-team 8 found Donovan’s county-owned SUV parked outside of the Knox County jail. Knox County Republican Chairman David Shelton revealed that complaints aimed at Donovan started coming in within months of her taking office in 2021. 

The coroner office does not have a physical address. the first-term coroner was running the office from her home and a rented storage unit.

Shelton says the storage unit rent had not been paid in months 

“That unit was scheduled to go to public auction this weekend, this unit contained all coroner reports and autopsy reports. It contained personal effects of the deceased as well as well as body bags, mass causality bags and other coroner related supplies,” said Shelton.

The county has recovered everything from the storage unit. Donovan is accused of not paying the salaries of deputy coroners or any of the bills related to the office since November 2022.  

“The highest cost item that we pay for is autopsies and those on average range about five grand a month. You can multiple that by six, and that alone is about 30 thousand dollars on autopsies. The lack of physicians that provide that service put us in a very tight spot tight,” said Knox County commissioner Kellie Streeter, who told News 8 the county stopped paying Donovan’s salary for failure to complete required coroner training.

Removing the coroner from the office could be tricky. Donovan hasn’t responded to calls for her resignation, an arrest is not grounds for removal, a felony conviction would automatically remove her from office. Streeter says Indiana statute does provide for the removal of an officer holder who doesn’t show up for work. However, county sheriffs and coroners are exempt. 

“We have to look at another avenue, which is listing our grievances and lobbying our prosecutor for judicial impeachment. That is the avenue we are going to take. We have been building a case for awhile.”

Commissioner Streeter stated that the Knox County coroner’s office is currently staffed by three deputy coroners, who have kept the office going without Donovan’s input for months.  

The county commissioner have assumed the handling of all expenses related to the coroner’s office for the time being. The commissioners plans to discuss impeachment proceedings at their next meeting in April.