Controversial Hocking County Coroner Sued for Improperly Investigating Death of Young Hiker

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Dr. David Cummins, Hocking County coroner, has faced endless controversy, accusations from his opponents that he has not done his job, and has  even been previously charged with counts of dereliction of duty and obstructing official business. 

Cummins who was also embroiled in a funding dispute and has been criticized by other officials for refusing to answer his phone during off hours to visit scenes of deaths now faces another controversy. Cummins, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Hocking County sheriff’s office and Hocking Valley Community Hospital have all been sued for allegedly improperly investigating the Dec. 9, 2011, death of 18 year old William Beinlich.

Beinlich, a freshman at Purdue University, had been hiking in Hocking Hill state park and was found non-responsive at the bottom of a 50 foot cliff in a pool of water at Old Man’s Cave. He was pronounced dead at 12:16 p.m.

The lawsuit from the Beinlich family, who are represented by attorney Brian Joslyn, cites the time he was pronounced dead as evidence of an improper investigation. Beinlich was pronounced dead only 31 minutes after the incident that resulted in his death.

Mr. Joslyn said that there was a complete lack of an investigation. The coroner’s office performed no autopsy, no coroner’s inquest, and no bystanders or eyewitnesses were identified by police.

Cummins defends that an autopsy was unnecessary because autopsies are only required if the cause of death is unknown. Cummins ruled that Beinlich’s death was a result of head trauma from falling off the cliff. Cummins body was later exhumed and a private autopsy commissioned by the Beinlich family concluded that his death was due to drowning.

Mr. Joslyn says that “The family was owed way more than they were given.”

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