Wednesday, July 14, 2021

County Deaths, Coroner Investigations Rose Substantially in 2020

The number of people who died in Shelby County last year was over 44% higher than the average of the previous five years. Shelby County Health Department data shows an average of 343 people died annually between 2015 and 2019. In 2020, 495 deaths occurred. Other Hoosier counties are also reporting increases. Monroe County pegged last year’s mortality rate at 21% higher than the average of the previous five years.

Last year featured numerous challenges for the local health department, starting with contact tracing for each positive coronavirus case.

“We kept up until we had 47 positives in one day,” Shelby County Health Department Manager/Director Robert Lewis said in an April interview. At that point, a nurse was contracted to assist. “Some older people only had three or fewer contacts, and we were keeping up fine. But some had 20 to 40 contacts, and we had to call all of them.”

From responding to outbreaks to overseeing testing and Covid vaccine distribution, the department kept adding to its usual operations, which includes administering standard inoculations.

The workload and numbers also spiked at the Shelby County Coroner’s office. Death investigations rose by over 97% in 2020 from the prior year. But it’s not a one year phenomenon. In 2016, the county coroner’s office worked 38 cases. Last year, that number ballooned to 225, up from 114 in 2019 and 77 in 2018.

“It is not only an uptick in the number of cases but also the hours committed to the cases,” Shelby County Coroner Bradley Rund said, noting the trend is nationwide. Fox59 reported a similar challenge in Marion County.

With more families unable to cover funeral expenses, the coroner’s staff searches for resources, such as Indiana Victims Assistance Funds, to prevent the county from assuming the costs.

The office recently worked a case involving the death of a middle-aged man with no family who moved here from out of state for a job. The next of kin, a cousin in Atlanta, Ga., declined responsibility, pushing the bill to the county.

“We are also seeing many people that are non-compliant with their healthcare. They are unable to afford medications or care,” Rund said. “This is resulting in an increased number of deaths at home, limited medical records and requiring coroner’s staff to work with multiple agencies to determine a cause of death.” 

The trend is likely to continue post-pandemic.

“I currently have two cases that I have no family for and have spent close to 80 hours apiece on trying to get their final disposition arranged,” Rund said.

Summer VBS Tradition Continues

Children participate in Vacation Bible School, held at First United Methodist Church in Shelbyville, on Monday. | by ANNA TUNGATE

It’s half-time at a local Vacation Bible School, and so far the numbers look good.

“We’re excited about the turnout,” Pastor Marcy Patrick, an ordained deacon at First United Methodist Church in Shelbyville, said. Approximately 35 children and 20 adults participated the first night.

While Monday evening involved the usual hectic registration process and division into age groups, children soon settled into a rotation of four stations: Bible story-telling, crafts, recreation and a science lab, where Rev. Colin Cress orchestrated a telling of the creation story. Cress serves as First UMC co-pastor along with his wife, Rev. Heather Cress. Last night, the burning bush story of Exodus was featured.

“We have the paraplegic being let down through the thatched roof on Wednesday night, and, of course, we have to end with the resurrection story with Mary Magdalene going and finding the tomb is empty (on Thursday),” Patrick said.

The events are held at First United Methodist Church but hosts include First Christian Church, First Presbyterian Church and West Street UMC. A meal is served at 5:30 p.m. and VBS is held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tomorrow night will include a program for parents.

“It’s just a great experience to do it together in a cooperative manner,” Patrick said.


  • The Blue River Career Program is projecting 350 students to be enrolled this fall, up from 338 last academic year. “Four of the last five years, before COVID, we had record numbers here…so hopefully, we will be back up to that again,” BRCP Director Steve Shaw said.

  • Blue River Career Program is looking for a Registered Nurse who holds a BS in Nursing to teach Health Science I this fall. “If somebody wants to retire, has retired, or just wants to change careers…,” BRCP Director Steve Shaw said at yesterday’s board meeting while encouraging potential applicants.

  • The Shelbyville Board of Public works issued orders to appear to the owners of the following nuisance properties: 836 Center, 554 W. Taylor St. and 1020 S. West.

  • Family Fun Day, part of Shelby County’s Bicentennial celebration, will be at the Shelby County Fairgrounds, July 25, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • As of yesterday, the state reported 5,059 positive coronavirus cases in Shelby County, an increase of 0 from the previous day, out of 20,549 tests, an increase of 13 from the day before. The number of deaths for Shelby County remained the same, at 97.

  • HOOSIER NEWS: In 2010, 29% of Hoosiers lived in the Indianapolis Metro area, which includes Shelby County. That increased to 31% by 2020. Seems like a small change until you recognize it means nearly 200,000 persons were added to the Metro area while only 64,000 more persons in the other 81 counties. (Look closely at the data: only 28 of those 81 grew in population.) (Morton Marcus)

  • NATIONAL NEWS: Uber has raised prices by 79 percent since the second quarter of 2019. According to their earnings report in May, Uber claimed 3.5 million active drivers in the first quarter, down 22 percent year-over-year. (Vice)

This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.


News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.

20 YEARS AGO: 2001
Harvester Federal Credit Union held an open house at its newly remodeled branch office, 1220 Miller Ave.

Sharp Trophies By Mack were both the Babe Ruth Minor Rookie League and tournament champions. Team members were Mitchell Mathies, Zachary Rowland, Sawyer Toll, Ben Locke, Wayne Burnett, Adam Eads, Zach Huber, Bradley Coleman, Collin Craft, Jake Mills, Andrew Stanich and Nolan Scott. Coaches were Tom Rowland, Wes Burnett, and Dave Toll. Tom Stanich was manager.

30 YEARS AGO: 1991
Children who lived in the Hildebrand subdivision, North Michigan Road and Rampart Street, put on a parade. Participants were Mallory Burgess, Nancy Taylor, Rebecca Fenton, Margaret Fenton, Stephanie Taylor, Crystal Biddle and Jessica Hill.

Mary Butler of Geneva was mystified. Since May, she reported someone had been putting plastic bags full of white, canvas work gloves in her front yard. All of the gloves had been left-handed.

40 YEARS AGO: 1981
Gahimer’s upset regular-season champ Paul’s Shoes in the first round of the Shelbyville Central Girls’ softball league’s “A” League tourney, then defeated Paxton’s in the final. Members of the championship team were Brenda Gahimer, Mary Kay Everhart, Beth Laird, Debbie Tillison, Roberta Nuthak, Sara DeBaun, Leslie Crosby, Sandy Shaw, Micka McDuffey, Serena Miller, Terri Alford, Candy Hutchinson, Tammy Larrison and Tina Metzger. Joe Crosby was coach and Jay Bushfield was manager.

Speedy’s added a tournament championship to its regular-season title in the “B” League. Team members were Angela Zinman, Angie Brewer, Missy Collins, Belinda Helser, Staci Noblitt, Beth Moore, Kim Adams, Amy McLane, Kristi Barnard, Stacey Barrett, Mimi Rubush and Valerie Morrison. Tracey Morrison was batgirl. Phil McLane was manager and Billie Bush and Carrie Moore were coaches.

50 YEARS AGO: 1971
A group of teenagers, apparently from Shelbyville, entered Southwestern High School and wrote obscenities on blackboards in the school, ran through the hallways and played basketball in the gymnasium.

PO 3.C. Lowell D. Johns, a 1968 Shelbyville High School graduate, was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for saving lives during combat operations in Vietnam.

60 YEARS AGO: 1961
Robert Norris, 45, principal at Morristown School since 1952, accepted a position as superintendent of the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School corporation.

City officials - including the mayor, five members of city council, city engineer, city attorney and other government officials - took a day trip to Cincinnati to attend races at River Downs and a Reds-Cubs baseball game.

70 YEARS AGO: 1951
State highway department officials ruled out a proposed rotary traffic pattern for Shelbyville’s Public Square. Instead, they offered a simple intersection blueprint, which they believed would help solve Shelbyville’s “biggest traffic headache.” The state’s chief designing engineer “said he would not recommend the rotary plan to the state highway commission, which has final approval in the matter, chiefly because of safety hazards which would be created if parking were permitted in the center of the circle,” The Shelbyville News reported. The rotary pattern had first been suggested by the state in 1941. Approximately 12,000 cars passed through the city each day, state tallies said. The proposed simple intersection would place a stoplight in the center of the Square where the fountain currently sat. Two-lane traffic in each direction would be available on Harrison St. and one-lane in each direction on Washington St. A six-foot-wide cement island would run down the center of Harrison St. Parking facilities would be divided into four quadrants, each containing space for 32 cars.

80 YEARS AGO: 1941
Corn and tomato production in Shelby County was greatly increased due to the national defense effort.

Local mechanics from “practically every service station in the county” planned an outing to Henrick’s Camp. G.O. Krebs, chairman of the committee, advised motorists “to make sure their cars are in shape to run through the day as mechanics will be hard to find this side of J.O. Henricks Camp.” The annual stag party was headed up by Krebs, Phil Hoop, Gene Dellekamp, Lawrence Soller, Brack Whaley, Dick Seltz, Bruce Haehl, Bob Remster and “Doc” Cousins.

90 YEARS AGO: 1931
Betty Weaver, 4, miraculously escaped serious injury after falling 10 feet to the cement floor of her parent’s barn near Fountaintown. She had been playing in the loft. Betty regained consciousness at Dr. Samuel Kennedy’s office an hour after the accident. X-rays revealed no injuries beyond a concussion and bruises.

100 YEARS AGO: 1921
“Bundle Day” was organized for Armenia. Locals were asked to wrap old clothes in bundles to donate. “High heeled white slippers might be good footwear in Shelbyville, but they are not worth much to the women and the girls of the Near East,” The Republican advised.


  • An abandoned car was cited in the 300 block of N. Pike St.

  • Theft was reported in the 8900 block of S. Edinburgh Road, Edinburgh.

  • Jail book-ins: Jaquitta D. Currin, 26, failure to appear; Reginald G. Davidson, 29, hold for another jurisdiction; Brice D. Denny, 18, burglary armed with a deadly weapon, intimidation, residential entry; Gary D. Lett, 41, failure to appear; Johnathan D. Matheny, 22, failure to appear; Travis D. Stephens, 39, failure to appear (3 counts)


None today