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Kern County unveils new and improved coroner's facility

Posted at 6:12 PM, May 29, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The new facility is equipped with twice as many workstations as the Flower St. facility and has a “Doe Room”, a room dedicated to rapid DNA testing and identifying John and Jane Does.

  • Video shows a tour of the new Kern County Coroner's Facility, which includes state-of-the-art technology and facilities.
  • According to a 2023 grand jury report, the coroner's office has seen a 59% increase in workload and higher turnover due to "cramped working conditions and consistent overtime."
  • The facility is not only expanding for the latest technology but for continued growth within the office. Currently, their budget allows for 14 deputy coroners and they've secured 11 so far.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the coroner’s facility on Flower Street had become so impacted at one point, they needed to store bodies at the Lerdo Facility in a trailer.

The Kern coroner’s facility has been the subject of criticism and multiple grand jury reports for years. On Wednesday, Coroner Division Chief Dawn Ratliff was finally able to respond with some positive news.

"In 2018, I saw the vision of what the coroner's office needed to meet the needs of the community,” she said as the County unveiled the new and improved coroner’s facility on McMurtrey Avenue.

For decades now, Ratliff and her team have dealt with staffing shortages and failing facilities. According to a 2023 grand jury report, the office has seen a 59% increase in workload and higher turnover due to "cramped working conditions and consistent overtime”.

"If you were to sit at my desk, as a deputy coroner I have a lot of files on my desk, I have a heavy caseload,” said Supervising Deputy Coroner Regina Rosso.

Bakersfield Neighborhood Reporter Veronica Morley interviewing Supervising Deputy Coroner Regina Rosso about the new facility
Bakersfield Neighborhood Reporter Veronica Morley interviewing Supervising Deputy Coroner Regina Rosso about the new facility

Rosso has worked alongside Ratliff for nearly 26 years.

"I never thought in my career I'd see it,” she said.

Rosso said when she started in 1998 as an autopsy assistant, she couldn't imagine the technology that they see now.

The new facility is equipped with twice as many workstations as the Flower St. facility, and each are state-of-the-art. It also has a “Doe Room”, a room dedicated to rapid DNA testing and identifying John and Jane Does. Before, the coroner had to send it off to the Department of Justice’s office and wait months for results.

"It's an amazing feeling to be able to give the family closure a lot quicker than having them calling and waiting on results while we're at the mercy of another agency,” Rosso said.

The facility is not only expanding for the latest technology but for continued growth within the office. Currently, their budget allows for 14 deputy coroners and they've secured 11 so far.

Rosso said in her 26 years, she never seen them have this many deputy coroners.

"It's all thanks to Dawn’s hard work.”

The County said the office will begin moving staff in sometime in June.


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