The Coroner’s Office will investigate all deaths within its jurisdiction according to State Law. The Office conducts independent investigations of deaths in Berkeley County, serving as a representative of the decedents and survivors. The investigation’s purpose is to determine the cause and manner of death and ensure that the circumstances are thoroughly understood.
The Coroner’s Office is responsible for investigating all suspicious, violent, sudden, and unexpected deaths that occur within Berkeley County. As well as deaths that occur in other counties resulting from an accident or injury that occurred in Berkeley County. Additionally, the Office also investigates all deaths that occur in a hospital within the first 24 hours of admission or after an invasive medical procedure.

Mission Statement

Facebook

Goals and Objectives

  • The Coroner ensures that the citizens of Berkeley County receive the best possible investigation of each death.
  • The Coroner ensures that the citizens of Berkeley County are kept informed about the status of a death investigation of a family member.
  • The Coroner ensures that the citizens of Berkeley County are protected against known hazards that have caused death by taking corrective measures.
  • The Coroner’s Office will maintain its partnership with government agencies, Berkeley County citizens, and community groups to raise awareness and educate the public about preventable deaths.

Responsibilities

  • Perform independent investigations into traumatic deaths, deaths that occur outside of hospitals and deaths that occur suddenly or unexpectedly.
  • Make positive identification of individuals who have died.
  • Notify families when unexpected deaths occur, such as in traffic fatalities or homicides.
  • Create reports that relate to deaths investigated by the Office.
  • Make the final determination as to the manner of death.
  • Issue burial transit permits for individuals who have died outside of a hospital.
  • Provide autopsy and Coroner's reports to agencies and next of kin.
  • Release personal effects to the next of kin.
  • Conducts overdose fatality reviews.
  • Act as the central depository for all records relative to a death, including the Coroner's Report, Autopsy Report, police investigative reports and any other investigative agencies' reports.
  • Maintain the County Coroner's Book of Inquisitions.
  • Issue cremation permits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Coroner’s Office involved in the death of my loved one?

SC law requires the Coroner to investigate certain types of death and determine the cause and manner of the death. If the Coroner’s Office is investigating the death of your loved one, it is likely the death falls under one of these categories:

  • Deaths associated with trauma or violence due to a homicide, suicide, or accident.
  • Deaths associated with suspicious or unusual circumstances
  • Deaths not attended by a physician and where the cause of death cannot be certified by a physician.
  • Deaths occurring within 24 hours of admission to a hospital or death in the Emergency Room.
  • Deaths due to infections, contagious disease, work related, or other hazardous public health conditions.
  • Deaths of children under the age of 18 who do not have a significant diagnosed condition that led to their death.
  • Decedents who are unidentified.

How does the Coroner obtain information for the investigation?

The Coroner’s Office uses several methods to gather information and evidence needed to complete their investigation. These may include, but are not limited to, forensic autopsy, toxicology, medical and dental records review, photographs, fingerprints, other agency reports, public records, and interviews to include information gathered from family and/or friends and witnesses.

What should I do now?

Our office will continue to stay in touch with you during the entire investigation and will inform you of any information that we can.

If you do not know which Funeral Home or what kind of arrangements your family would like, now is the time to start making those decisions. The first step is finding a funeral home you are comfortable with and one that will meet your needs. They will assist you with the arrangement best suited for your family. They will also assist you in getting certified copies of the death certificate, transportation out of state for your loved one, insurance and Veteran benefits, among many other things.

Please, always feel free to call us with any questions or concerns.

Is an autopsy always performed?

No, in many instances, the Deputy Coroner can determine a cause and manner of death by medical records and other information obtained. In the instances that this information needs to be determined, verified, or evidence gathered, an autopsy will take place. While the Coroner does not need permission to have an autopsy completed, we at Berkeley County believe in working closely with families to explain and come to an agreement on what would be best.

Can I get a copy of the autopsy report?

Yes, once the investigation is complete to include any toxicology, histological, or any other further testing, the Deputy Coroner will contact the legal next of kin and they can submit an email request by emailing and attaching a copy of their government issued ID. Typically, this process takes approximately 6-8 weeks. The report can be emailed, mailed, or picked up by appointment at the Coroner’s Office upon completion.

Will I be told the cause and manner of death of my loved one?

Yes, in cases where a forensic autopsy is needed, the Deputy Coroner will keep in contact with the legal next-of-kin to keep you up to date with the states of the investigation and will let you know the final determination once the investigation is complete. Many times, test results take longer to complete than the initial autopsy, and a “Pending” death certificate is issued in the meantime.

How do I obtain a death certificate?

You can obtain copies directly from the Funeral Home. They will assist you in getting as many copies as you need of either the Pending version, Completed version, or both. The second way is to obtain them directly from Vital Records with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) once they are filed by your Funeral Home. South Carolina DHEC Vital Records Website: https://scdhec.gov/vital-records/death-certificates.

What is a “Pending” death certificate?

The death investigation continues after the Coroner’s Office has completed any initial examination and your loved one has been released to a funeral home. Listing “Pending” for the cause and manner of death on the death certificate allows you to move forward with a planned final arrangement of cremation or out-of-state arrangements. It also allows you to begin other legal proceedings for your loved one while the investigation continues.

How do I get the personal items that were with my loved one when they died?

Once necessary procedures have been completed and your loved one is ready for release to the funeral home, those personal items will either be sent to the funeral home with your loved one or they can be released from the Coroner’s Office to the legal next-of-kin by making an appointment and providing a copy of their government issue ID with the office at 843-719-4566. There are occasions when your loved one’s personal items must be held for evidence. If this occurs, the investigating Deputy Coroner can answer any questions about this process. Everything maintained at the Coroner’s Office will be securely kept until it is able to be released.

Deputy Coroner Staff

Coroner

Coroner Darnell D. Hartwell was born in Charleston, SC in 1984 and was raised in the northern part of Berkeley County (Bonneau, Alvin). He is a 2003 graduate of Timberland High School.

Coroner Hartwell has served the citizens of Berkeley County his entire career. From 2003-2005 he served at the Bonneau Volunteer Fire Department and from 2003-2018 he also served with the Berkeley County Rescue Squad.

Coroner Hartwell began his career in the Coroner’s Office in 2005 and served thru 2010 as a volunteer deputy coroner under the leadership of the late Coroner Glenn Rhoads. In 2011 Coroner Hartwell was sworn in as a paid deputy coroner under the leadership of retired Coroner William “Bill” Salisbury, and from 2018 to present as Chief Deputy Coroner under the leadership of Coroner George M. Oliver.

With nearly 20 years of service in the Coroner’s Office Coroner Hartwell has over 3000 training hours in death investigation, criminal investigations, emergency services and leadership training. He has been involved in over 5000 death investigations that include but not limited to naturals death, violent deaths, suicides, accidental deaths, and homicides. Coroner Hartwell has assisted in leading the Coroner’s Office thru the Covid-19 pandemic and the everlasting opioid epidemic fatalities. He has led his team thru example and teaching to strive towards excellence, treating all families with dignity, compassion, and professionalism.

Coroner Hartwell is an active member with the South Carolina Coroner’s Association, International Association of Coroner’s and Medical Examiners, The Lowcountry Health Care Coalition, The National Training Center Bureau of Justice Training (U.S. Department of Justice), The Kennedy Center Prevention Programs, Wounded Warriors (Suicide Prevention for Military Personnel) and the Fraternal Order of Police. Coroner Hartwell is a Registered Medicolegal Death Investigator, and a class 3 certified law enforcement officer for the State Of South Carolina.

Coroner Hartwell is an active member of Pointe North Community Church. He is married to Melissa Hartwell; he has two sons and a daughter.

Chief Deputy - Kelly Kraus

Telephone: (843) 719-4566
Email:

Kelly has 20 years of investigative experience and has served the citizens of the Lowcountry in the death investigations of their loved ones for 13 years.  She was a Deputy Coroner with the Charleston County Coroner’s Office from 2007-2019.  She joined the Berkeley County Coroner’s Office in 2022 and was named the Chief Deputy Coroner in 2023.  Prior to death investigation, she served as a Police Officer with the Charleston Police Department from 2003-2007.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.  She is nationally certified with the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators.

She is an experienced death investigator and had the unfortunate distinction of working the mass fatalities of the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire and the Mother Emanuel AME mass shooting.

Law Enforcement Partners

Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office
223 North Live Oak Drive, Moncks Corner SC 29461 843-723-3800
Moncks Corner Police Dept
118 Carolina Ave, Moncks Corner, SC 29461 843-719-7930
St. Stephen Police Dept
137 Hood Street, St, Stephen SC 29479 843-567-3116
Bonneau Police Dept
420 Municipal Lane, Bonneau SC 29431 843-825-3385
Jamestown Police Dept
7604 SC-41, Jamestown, SC 29453 843-257-2095
Goose Creek Police Dept
519 N Goose Creek Blvd, Goose Creek, SC 29445 843-572-4300
Summerville Police Dept
300 W 2nd N St, Summerville, SC 29483 843-871-2463
City of Charleston Police Dept
180 Lockwood Dr, Charleston, SC 29403 843-577-7434
Dept of Natural Resources
1000 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201 843-953-9307
Hanahan Police Dept
1255 Yeamans Hall Rd, Hanahan, SC 29410 843-747-5711

Victims Advocate

Hanahan: Kelly Stafford
1255 Yeamans Hall Road Hanahan SC 29410 843-554-4221
Moncks Corner: Zelda Holmes
843-934-8801
Summerville: Toni Hood
South Carolina Highway Patrol: Crystal Salley
803-896-0757
Berkeley County Sherriff’s Office: Jenny Smith
223 N. Live Oak Drive, Moncks Corner SC 29461 843-719-4455
Goose Creek Police Dept: Olivia Menjares
519 North Goose Creek BLVD, Goose Creek SC 29445 843-863-5200 ext. 2340

Prevention Partners

Berkeley Community Mental Health
403 Stoney Landing Rd, Moncks Corner, SC 29461 843-761-8282
Bradley Blake Foundation
The Earnest Kennedy Center
306 Airport Dr, Moncks Corner, SC 29461 843-761-8272
Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Support Group
Help Line 988 (for anyone)
Wake Up Carolina
Bereavement & Grief Resources

News and Releases

Community Outreach Prevention Education (C.O.P.E)


Events:
Photos:
Calendar:

Latest News

Post List #4
Berkeley County Announces Holiday Hours and Closures

Berkeley County Announces Holiday Hours and Closures

Jenna Ley JamisonDec 11, 20232 min read

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – (Monday, December 11, 2023) – All Berkeley County Government offices will be closed Friday, December 22 through Tuesday, December 26. Normal hours will resume on Wednesday, December 27. Offices will be closed again on Monday, January…

Cypress Gardens Hosting Berkeley County Public Services Day

Cypress Gardens Hosting Berkeley County Public Services Day

Jenna Ley JamisonOct 30, 20231 min read

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – (Monday, October 30, 2023) – Cypress Gardens will host Berkeley County Public Services Day on Saturday, November 18, 2023, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. atthe park, located at…

Berkeley County Encourages Public to Report Storm Damage

Berkeley County Encourages Public to Report Storm Damage

Jenna Ley JamisonAug 31, 20232 min read

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – (Thursday, August 31, 2023) – Berkeley County Government is encouraging any resident or business that sustained storm damage from Idalia to report it online HERE or via the Citizen…

Berkeley County Prepares for Impacts from Idalia, Update #3

Berkeley County Prepares for Impacts from Idalia, Update #3

Jenna Ley JamisonAug 30, 20235 min read

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – (Wednesday, August 30, 2023) – As Idalia approaches, Berkeley County remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, which means Tropical Storm force winds are possible within the next 36 hours,…

Berkeley County Prepares for Impacts from Idalia, Announces Closures, Update #2

Berkeley County Prepares for Impacts from Idalia, Announces Closures, Update #2

Jenna Ley JamisonAug 29, 20234 min read

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – (Tuesday, August 29, 2023) – Berkeley County Emergency Management officials and leaders are continuing to monitor Hurricane Idalia, set to make landfall early Wednesday as a category 3 storm…

Newsroom

Comments are closed.