Coroner: Bullying can play a role in someone's death
One local coroner said bullying can be so extreme it can cause someone to take their own life.
Howard County Coroner Frank Flaspohler said bullying can play a role in someone's death, making it his job to investigate what exactly made a person take their life.
"Some people can be pushed beyond that limit to where they're made to feel so unwanted or worthless that they don't belong here," he said. "And bullying can push them to that point."
He said in his investigation, he has to take account the scene, witnesses, background of what lead up to the incident and any possible factors that contributed to the death prior to the incident. He said a coroner's inquest can help.
"It's not often used by coroners but it's a very important tool."
A coroner's inquest is is a legal inquiry into the manner and cause of an individual's death. It is often conducted by the coroner with a court reporter and six jurors from the county in which the death took place. These inquiries are used when the cause of death is unknown, violent or deemed unnatural.
Flaspohler said it helps to further the investigation since it allows the coroner to call witnesses and compel them to testify.
"The other nice thing about a coroner's inquest is that it kind of takes the burden off the coroner," he said. "Six jurors, six honest people from Howard County, hear the evidence and they can ask questions and they can make decisions," he explained.
As a coroner, he often determines the cause of death based on his investigation meaning one person makes the final decision. He said when there's a jury, more than one person is able to determine the cause of death.
Flaspohler said coroner's inquests are relatively rare and he's conducted just five in his career. With a coroner's inquest or not, he said his investigations must be thorough and are important for those still alive.
"A coroner's job is he speaks for the deceased in order to serve and protect the living," he explained.
"And that's why I keep digging and looking for solutions," he said. "To prevent this from happening again."