Deputy coroner being investigated again

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 24, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga---There's a new investigation into theft, just one day after a deputy coroner was arrested.

"The last 24 hours has has been a disaster for the Coroner's Office," said Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten, visibly upset at the arrest of an employee.

Charlena Graham is accused of stealing about $400 worth of gift cards from a body she was trusted with.

"We hire what we think to be honest and capable people and we put our trust in them," he said.

And he says he trusted Graham for many years.

Before her four years at the Coroner's Office, they worked together while she was a deputy.

He doesn't understand---why.

"I can't tell you what she was thinking, I don't know. It's just plain stupid," he said.

Stupid, he says, because there were other people there, including a police officer, when she took inventory of the items.

Tuten believes it is an isolated incident, but says it's typical for people to call after something like this and say their items are missing.

He says he's taken a few of those calls, and has dismissed all but one. It's another case where Graham was at the scene. About six other people were as well.

"It throws a bad light on the Coroner's Office," Tuten said.

Tuten says he is waiting a few weeks to hire someone. He wants to see if there are ways he can prevent this from happening again.

He's contacted the Georgia Coroner's Association to see if there are new training methods he can use.

But still, he believes all the training in the world might not help.

"I don't know anything we could've done to have prevented it. It's strictly a moral thing with the employee," he said.

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