The four applicants for Faulkner County coroner have been narrowed to two, County Judge Jim Baker said.
Baker said he will recommend either interim Coroner Robert Edwards or Chief Deputy Jessica Thorn to the Faulkner County Quorum Court at its Nov. 21 meeting.
The other applicants are Cody V. Sublett of Conway, owner of Cadron Creek Craftsman and a former Arkansas Crime Lab investigator and autopsy technician; and Patrick Moore of Mayflower, an embalming assistant at Ruff’s Mortuary in North Little Rock, who was a Pulaski County deputy coroner from 2009-2014. He is no relation to the late Faulkner County Coroner Patrick F. Moore, Baker said.
Edwards, 47, was appointed by Baker to fill the position left when the longtime coroner (Patrick F. Moore) died of a heart attack on Sept. 4 at age 68. He’d been the coroner for 28 1/2 years and an emergency-medical technician for 40 years.
Baker said he appointed a committee to help him make the final decision — Conway Police Chief Jody Spradlin, Greenbrier Police Chief Gene Earnhart and Faulkner County Sheriff Tim Ryals.
“The group has decided to stay within the present employee structure,” Baker said. “That was the No. 1 recommendation. The two under review are Jessica and Robert.”
Baker said the committee discussed the possibility of hiring from outside the department but decided against it based on the quality of the candidates in the coroner’s office.
“I thought it would take two people to fill Pat’s shoes,” Baker said. “Folks are out there doing such a good job, I haven’t worried about it. They’ve responded to all the needs.”
Edwards, who lives in Conway, said he worked alongside or under Moore for 31 years. Edwards began training with Moore in 2002 and became a deputy coroner in 2002, but his relationship with Moore goes back to the 1980s. Edwards worked with Moore and Moore’s wife, Leslie, on a hospital-based city ambulance service called Emergency Response Team, beginning in 1987.
Edwards also owns Mr. Brake and Lube Inc.
He said working in the coroner’s office doesn’t feel like a job to him.
“It’s hard to put into words how I feel about it,” he said in an earlier interview.
Both Edwards and Thorn said Moore’s death has been hard because he had a big personality and was so good at his job.
Thorn, 33, of Greenbrier said Moore was like a father to her.
“He has always been there for me,” she said. “We spent every day together.”
Thorn said she was Moore’s first full-time employee. She worked with Moore for seven years and handled all the paperwork, as well as went on calls with him.
“This is my dream; this is what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said of being coroner.
Thorn said she also worked almost 10 years as a funeral director for Roller-McNutt Funeral Home in Greenbrier and Conway.
Spradlin said Baker wanted input from him and the other two committee members because they work closely with the coroner.
“That’s his decision to make; he just wanted input from us,” Spradlin said. “The ball lies in his court.”
Thorn said the coroner’s office employees work well together. Mark Mahan of Wooster, a North Little Rock firefighter, is a part-time deputy coroner.
Both Thorn and Edwards said they will stay on no matter which of them is hired.
“We just want what’s best for the county and the office,” Edwards said.
“It takes all of us to run it and keep it going because it’s so busy,” Thorn said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.