by Kathy Tretter
Spencer County Republicans caucased on Thursday, October 7, to fill the vacancy created when former coroner Rachel Frederick tendered her resignation.
Meet Layla Thayer, chosen to complete Frederick’s term. Many readers will likely already know her. With her husband, Evan, she moved to Spencer County 16 years ago to purchase Boultinghouse Funeral Home in Rockport, later acquiring Youngblood Funeral Home in Chrisney.
Thayer checks off all the boxes. For 18 years she has served as an Emergency Medical Technician and for the past six, as a firefighter with the Ohio Township Volunteer Fire Department. She has served (until Thursday) as a Warrick County Deputy Coroner.
“I’ve been blessed to formulate healthy, ongoing working relationships with multiple county-wide departments,” Thayer explained. “It is within the encouragement of these sister and brotherhoods that I have solidified my desire to even further serve the residents of Spencer County …”
Warrick County Coroner Sarah A. Seaton endorsed Thayer, writing, “Layla has served the residents of Warrick County exceptionally well over the past two years. She brings a unique set of skills to the department which include, among other things, professionalism, compassion, attention to detail, and a solid medical knowledge base. With these skills she has worked countless deaths in our county. She has worked closely with law enforcement, medics, and fire fighters on scene, leading the investigations to determine the cause and manner of deaths in nearly every imaginable context. She consistently demonstrates exceptional critical thinking and investigative skills, and there has never been a single complaint lodged from collaborating agencies as to the proficiency, accuracy, and thoroughness of her work. She maintains excellent communication between all involved in the death investigations, including family members, law enforcement, pathology services, and myself. I have been most impressed with her ongoing communications with everyone involved in a case as well as her effectiveness in documentation of all aspects of her cases.
“Layla is a Certified Medicolegal Death Investigator in good standing with the Indiana State Coroners Association. She has consistently met all requirements to hold this certification without limitations, completing more than the required hours of continued education each year.”
And just this year, she graduated from the Mid-America College of Funeral Service with a mortuary science degree, adding another layer to her curriculum vitae.
In a three page letter of recommendation for Thayer, fellow firefighter Jimmy Ahl wrote: “Every day there is an opportunity that I will have to put my life in Layla’s hands. On any scene I am 100% confident she would try with her last breath to save me. With my last breath, I could not think of anyone on this planet that I would rather have taking care of me or fighting for me than Layla Thayer. Furthermore, I believe my family would be in great hands as she took care of any needs they would have from my passing.
“The office of the Corner is one that sometimes gets overlooked. But this office, in this season of the needs of the community is extremely important. She will provide organization, high moral standards, empathy and love for all persons, she will lead with passion and dignity, and without a doubt Layla will be one that can keep this office in good order …”
Thayer shared with caucus members her thoughts of what the office of coroner entails.
“The duty of a Coroner is NOT just to determine the cause and manner of death. Nor is it just about arriving at the scene in a timely fashion or formulating good working relationships with the federal, state, and local agencies. It is also more than just taking the deceased into your care to secure a chain of custody.
“The duty of a coroner requires communication, interaction with families, investigating deaths, identifying and preserving evidence, maintaining ethical and legal responsibilities, demonstrating scientific knowledge, coping with job-related stress, and being knowledgeable of legal powers and duties of the coroner within the state of Indiana.
“To me, the duty of a coroner is creating a departmental structure that operates with the utmost care and compassion for the residents of Spencer County. I’ve lived in this county long enough to tell you that the residents here are not just a case number to me. They are my neighbors, my friends, people I attend church with, and pray with. They are an expansion of my family.”
She also shared several bullet points of why she was seeking this office.
• To be the best possible representation of the decedents that I can be by putting together a qualified team of professionals across Spencer County who can obtain scene access in a timely fashion for investigations.
• So that we, as a department, may advocate for the survivor and to convey the full truth of the circumstances surrounding the death or to convey new information timely.
• That we may be a team providing the utmost care, consideration, and compassion in the treatment and handling of not only the decedents but of the loved ones of the deceased also.
• I want to be the Coroner because the people of Spencer County deserve to have a Coroner who is clear, concise, and compassionate on every case, every time. The residents of Spencer County deserve to have a Coroner and Deputies who are dignified, trustworthy, honest, and ethical.
• It is important to me for the coroner’s office to take a proactive approach by raising awareness about preventable deaths. Examples of preventable deaths are motorcycle awareness, heatstroke awareness, helmet safety, bus stop safety; there are many-many examples here…not leaving small children near water unattended, ATV awareness and safety, etc.
• I would like to manage a department known for referring families to resource agencies (when necessary) to assist through the grieving process. Example: The Hope Team (suicides), Critical Incident Stress Management Team (traumatic death), Organ Donation…. something to bring hope to families.
Thayer was sworn in on Friday and assumed her duties immediately.
She plans to run for the office on her own merit as the term she is completing runs through 2022, with the Primary Election May 3 (she is running on the Republican ticket) and the General Election in November.