The Coroner’s Office is responsible for investigating all suspicious, violent, sudden, and unexpected deaths that occur in Richland County. Additionally, the Coroner also investigates all deaths that occur in a hospital within the first 24 hours of admission. After the investigation is concluded, the Coroner determines whether the manner of death is due to natural causes, an accident, a suicide, or a homicide. The Coroner also assists and counsels the families, helping them to cope with their loss by using victim advocates.
1931 Pineview Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29209
Post Office Box 192
Columbia, South Carolina 29202
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Telephone: (803) 576-1799
Fax: (803) 576-1798
Richland County Coroner's Biography
Gary Watts, the Richland County Coroner, is no stranger to public service. Prior to being elected as Coroner, he served as the Deputy Coroner in Richland County for more than 15 years and was involved in over 7,500 death investigations. His professional experience also includes having served as a police officer, an Emergency Medical Technician, and an investigator with the Richland County Public Defender’s Office.
Gary Watts’ education prepared him for a career in public service. He is a graduate of the Institute of Police Technology and Management, University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. (This included traffic, homicide, investigations, advanced traffic and traffic accident reconstruction). He also attended the SC Criminal Justice Academy. In addition to his experience and education, Gary Watts is also active in professional organizations, providing another avenue for supporting his community. He is a member of the SC Division of the International Association for Identification. He also serves as the President for the SC Coroner’s Association and as Chairman for the Richland County Child Health and Safety Council Child Fatality Review Committee. Gary Watts also served as the former Chairman for Midlands Safe Kids. Gary Watts’ objective for his tenure as Richland County’s Coroner is to create the most experienced and modern office to work with law enforcement, the legal system, and our citizens. This will ensure that each case is quickly and fairly resolved, and always with respect to those involved. He also endeavors to develop a proactive approach to help reduce injuries and deaths by using new and innovative ideas in the community, with special attention to traffic and other accidental causes.
Goals and Objectives
- The Coroner ensures that the citizens of Richland County receive the best possible investigation of each death.
- The Coroner ensures that the citizens of Richland County are kept informed about the status of a death investigation of a family member.
- The Coroner ensures that the citizens of Richland County are protected against known hazards that have caused a death by taking corrective measures.
- The Coroner will adequately equip all deputy coroners so they can perform within the established and published guidelines and standards set forth by SC State Law and OSHA regulations.
- The Coroner will continue to utilize the volunteer services of the C.A.R.E. Team implemented in Fiscal Year 2002.
- Determine cause and manner of death.
- Investigation of unaccompanied deaths and deaths that occur within 24 hours of a hospital admission, and any other suspicious or accidental death.
- Schedule, assist and maintain the records of autopsies and death investigations.
- Perform toxicology tests on decedents through state and private labs.
- Communicate with the S.C. Organ Procurement Association.
- Provide reports to law enforcement agencies.
- Maintain files on all reported deaths.
- Secure the certification of death certificates.
- Complete the death certificates on all deaths that are coroner cases.
- Provide Cremation Permits to funeral homes.
- Secure and house any property obtained from decedents for the next of kin.
- Oversee the Potters Cemetery for indigent decedents and the cremation of abandoned bodies.
- Provide volunteer C.A.R.E. Team members to assist the families of the decedents.
- Community awareness and education programs speaking with schools and organizations.
- Perform car seat inspections.
- Cremation permits - $10.00. These are fees charged to funeral homes for each cremation conducted.
- Autopsy reports - $100.00. These are fees charged to everyone outside the immediate family(i.e., attorneys and others) for receiving a copy of an autopsy report.
- Copies - $0.50 first page, $0.15 every page thereafter. This is the amount charged for any copies made for the general public.