Weatherford Democrat

October 10, 2012

Commissioners fire death investigator

Judy Sheridan
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD —  

On the recommendation of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office, Parker County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to terminate the employment of Parker County Chief Forensic Death Investigator Regina Banks, effective immediately.

County Judge Mark Riley and commissioners Craig Peacock, John Roth and Dusty Renfro voted in favor of the termination. Commissioner George Conley voted against, later citing “personal reasons” for doing so.

Banks has been chief investigator for Parker County since January 2011, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s 2011 Annual Report. Prior to that time, she served as an investigator for the Denton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Banks has also worked as an investigator for the State of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

As with any personnel issue, commissioners discussed the issue in a closed executive session. 

Banks, interviewed later, said the termination was “definitely not justified.”

She said she had never been written up during her time as a county employee and would be obtaining counsel. 

“I made one small mistake,” she offered, saying her termination was really Tarrant County Chief Forensic Death Investigator Michael Floyd’s decision. “I can’t comment; it could jeopardize bigger things.”

County Attorney John Forrest said later that the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office presented the recommendation to terminate Banks Friday. Banks is a county employee, but she works under the supervision of the medical examiner’s office.

“They make recommendations to us — who to hire — and we have to approve who’s going to work with them,” Riley said.  

“For the continued performance of her position, [the county] didn’t have a choice,” Forrest said of the court decision.

Floyd did not respond to inquiries by press time.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s District includes Tarrant, Denton, Johnson and Parker counties.  

Its primary purpose, according to the annual report, is to assist the public and law enforcement agencies to determine the cause of death due to unnatural causes, medically unattended or death due to violence, using laboratory and forensic science facilities.

The organizational chart shows that Parker County has the service of three part-time forensic death investigators in addition to Banks, who was employed full-time.

Forensic investigators in the four-county area inquired into more than 8,700 deaths in 2011, according to the report.

Investigators study criminal investigation techniques, forensic medicine, crime scene processing and maintenance of case integrity. They also conduct interviews, notify next-of-kin and interact with law enforcement personnel.   

Once a jurisdictional death is reported, the report states, the investigator visits the scene or hospital where the death occurred. He or she conducts an investigation, prepares a case report on the deceased and provides a narrative of the events leading up to the time of the deceased’s death or discovery, summing up all investigative analyses and leads.

Investigators also coordinate with hospitals, physicians, law enforcement agencies, employers, families, and others to gather information that might be of value in determining the cause and manner of death.