Veteran investigator temporarily takes over vacant Lake coroner office

2012-08-27T17:15:00Z 2012-09-25T19:20:05Z Veteran investigator temporarily takes over vacant Lake coroner officeBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 27, 2012 5:15 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | PJ Adams, a veteran law enforcement official, is serving as Lake county's interim county coroner in the wake of former Coroner Thomas Philpot's weekend conviction.

Adams said Monday he has taken over the administration of the coroner's office until a new coroner is named in the coming days by a countywide Democratic caucus of precinct committeemen.

State law requires the party of the former coroner to name a replacement to fill out the remaining 16 months of Philpot's term.

Adams, a retired county police officer and detective, has been serving for more than a year as the chief deputy coroner. He began more than a decade ago as an investigator for the coroner's office, which investigates homicides, suicides and other suspicious deaths.

Philpot was stripped of office after a U.S. District Court jury found him guilty of five counts of fraud and theft of more than $24,000 from Indiana's federally funded child support incentive funds he controlled between 2004 and 2009 while serving as Lake County clerk.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Monday he is preparing to call a caucus of Democratic committeemen to meet on an upcoming Saturday in the Hammond Civic Center. He supports the selection of Merrilee Frey, 49, of Crown Point.

Frey won the Democratic nomination last spring to run in the Nov. 6 general election to become coroner for a term that begins in 2014. A forensic nurse, she has headed the Lake Circuit Court's domestic relations services for more than a decade.

She is opposed by Republican Andy Koultourides, a 49-year-old Munster town councilman and dentist with offices in Munster and Merrillville.

Koultourides said in a statement late Sunday the verdict "should serve as a lesson to all that we cannot be ambivalent or careless about whom we elect. We no longer have the luxury of putting blind faith in any party."

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