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Coroner in remains removal resigns

A Niagara County coroner accused of taking human remains from the scene of a fatal motor vehicle crash so that a search-and-rescue dog could use them for cadaver training has resigned.

Fourth District Coroner Russell Jackman announced his resignation effective Monday afternoon after agreeing to remove himself from active duty, according to Niagara County Public Information Officer Christian W. Peck.

Jackman, 45, is accused of giving a portion of human remains from the fatal crash on April 13 to Cambria Fire Chief Vincent Salerno for cadaver training for Salerno's search-and-rescue dog. Both men were charged with obstructing governmental administration after Cambria volunteer firefighters at the crash scene reported the illegal transfer of remains.

Richard Dunn, 32, of Lockport, was killed on Saunders Settlement Road when he lost control of his truck and collided with a car carrying four people.

Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour said the charges against Jackman and Salerno are part of their continuing investigation of the fatal collision. Dunn's family is "very upset" about the actions of Jackman and Salerno, Voutour said Friday.

Niagara County Senior Coroner Kenneth V. Lederhouse, called the actions of his colleague, "just plain stupidity."

"In my 27 years [as a coroner] I've never come across a case like this," he told The Buffalo News on Monday.

He added: "It is somebody's loved one. You have to do the best you can and get [the body] collected and back to the family. I just can't believe this happened. What was he thinking?"

Jackman, who had served as coroner from 2003 to 2007, had been re-elected recently and had been in office for 3 1/2 months in his new term, Lederhouse noted.

Any calls originating in the 4th District will be directed to 3rd District Coroner Lederhouse, who will coordinate with the two other coroners to make sure all calls are answered in a timely manner, said Niagara County Legislature Community Safety and Security Chairman Paul Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda.

Wojtaszek said coverage is in place, but officials will now begin the next step for filling the position by appointment.

"It did catch us off guard a little bit," he said, "but we will advertise and try to get qualified candidates. It could take a month. It could take a couple of months."

Jackman and Salerno are set to be arraigned at 7:30 p.m. today in Cambria Town Court.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com