by CRAIG COLEY
Joani Stalcup was an emergency medical technician in Owen County in 2004 when the newly elected coroner asked her to become one of his deputies. He said it wasn’t much more difficult than ambulance duty. “Little did I know what I was getting into,” says Stalcup, 50, who is now serving her second four-year term as Monroe County coroner.
Coroners and their deputies handle deaths that are unexplained or caused by accident, homicide, suicide, or drug overdose. When necessary, they arrange for forensic work such as blood tests or autopsies. Stalcup’s first solo run as deputy coroner was a car accident that killed the driver and three young-adult passengers, two of them brothers and all of them about the same age as Stalcup’s oldest son. “I saw my son’s face in every one of those kids that were in that car,” Stalcup says. After transporting the bodies from the scene, Stalcup visited the families of the deceased—another part of the coroner’s job. “I’ll never forget telling that mom she lost two sons. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
But it was also what made her feel called to the work. “I want to be there for these people. I want them to be treated the way I would want to be treated if somebody had to give me the worst news I’m ever going to hear.”
Stalcup grew up in southern Monroe County and has two grown sons and three grandchildren. She married Mike Stalcup this May and lives in Ellettsville. After serving as Monroe County’s chief deputy coroner for five years, she was first elected coroner in 2016. It is a part-time position that pays the same whether the office handles 130 cases, as it did in 2009, or 274, as it did last year. Stalcup says the increase is due to more drug overdoses and fewer doctors agreeing to sign death certificates, requiring the coroner to do so.
Because her position is part-time, she has maintained full- time jobs, currently at Centerstone behavioral health center. She is considering a run for sheriff in 2024.
People ask how she does a job that involves so much death and grief. “I have like a metal file cabinet in my brain, and all of these things get filed and locked away, and I don’t get back in that cabinet unless I have to. Nobody could ever do this job if they didn’t learn how to do that.”