By Alan Sorensen
No. A state-wide crime wave didn't account for all of the out-of-town sheriff's vehicles cluttering the Duck Inn parking lot the last few days. Nor were they here for a cop convention.
All those sheriffs and deputies were in town for the 47th annual conference of the Montana Coroners Association that concluded this morning.
This year's conference was the second hosted by Hill County Sheriff Tim Solomon during his tenure as Hill County coroner.
"I'd say it's about 50/50," Solomon said. "About half of the counties have sheriff/coroners and half are coroners."
The annual conference is accompanied by advance training required of coroners every other year by the attorney general, Solomon said. As the association's name suggests, the training focuses on the investigation of violent crime, specifically, unnatural death.
Solomon said that requiring the training every other year but offering it every year allows him and other coroners in the state to split up the training. Solomon, Undersheriff Don Brostrom, Deputy Les Osborne and Deputy Dana Roe are trained coroners. This year Solomon and Brostrom are taking the training, while Osborne and Roe stay on duty. Next year, Osborne and Roe will take the training, and Solomon and Brostrom will stay home and tend the office.
The county coroners, most of whom are also their counties' sheriffs, and others benefited from the advanced 16 hours coroner training session.
Retired FBI agent Larry Brubaker presented a variety of case studies and profiling techniques during the three-day conference. He opened his lectures Monday morning with a presentation on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
Munchausen Syndrome gets its name from Hieronymous Karl von Munchausen, an 18th century German baron and mercenary soldier. The modern term, coined in 1976, popularly refers to a psychiatric disorder in which mothers deliberately induce or falsely report illnesses in their children.
Brubaker also presented some case studies of brutal crimes that he investigated over the years, including the chronology of Andrew Phillip Cunanan, one of the FBI's 10 most wanted. Cunanan's 79-day reign of terror that ended with the discovery of his body on a boat in Florida on July 23, 1997. Cunanan murder spree began with a victim in Minneapolis on April 29, 1997 and was followed by two murders in Chicago and one in New Jersey. His final victim was fashion designer Gianni Versace who was murdered outside his home in Miami Beach on July 15, 1997.
During a brief recess Tuesday afternoon, Brubaker said he enjoyed being back on the Hi-Line.
"It's kind of a fun thing, teaching in my home town," Brubaker said. "I taught yesterday and today a little bit of everything."
Solomon was equally pleased at having Brubaker teach the advance course. "It's great getting a hometown boy back to be a presenter," he said.
To kick off the next learning session, Brubaker showed a clip from the movie "Silence of the Lambs."
"Did you hear what she said?" Brubaker asked the 65 or so investigators at the end of the clip. "That was Jody Foster in Silence. " She said, FBI. You're safe.'"
Brubaker said that that quote was as believable in law enforcement circles as another popular phrase: "I'm with the FBI; I'm here to help you."
As the laughter died down, Brubaker began a lecture on one of the most gruesome murders he ever investigated, the murder of an entire family in tiny Ina, Ill., population 460. Brubaker said he reviewed the evidence in the case every six months for three years but was unable to solve it. "It was a profiling nightmare," he said. The case was finally solved, 13 years after the fact, upon the death of the murderer.
This morning, the conference kicked off with the annual MCA meeting chaired by President Dorothy Browder of Kalispell.
"It's been a good conference," the deputy Flathead County coroner said, "lots of good information."
The conference concluded following an hour presentation by State Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Dale and an hour presentation on the State Crime Lab in Missoula.