Coroner named for Scheunert/Johnny inquest

A B.C. coroner has been chosen to oversee the inquest into two women who died after receiving treatment at the Watson Lake Hospital.

A B.C. coroner has been chosen to oversee the inquest into two women who died after receiving treatment at the Watson Lake Hospital.

Norm Leibel has been appointed to preside over the inquest into the deaths of Teresa Ann Scheunert and Mary Johnny.

Yukon’s coroner Kirsten Macdonald made the announcement yesterday.

A new date has also been set for the inquest. It will run from June 2 to 13 in a Whitehorse courtroom.

Leibel has 12 years of experience as a coroner. He spent six years as a deputy chief coroner, four years as a regional coroner and two years as an investigative coroner, according to Macdonald.

She “requested that coroner Leibel be appointed to preside at this inquest to ensure that the inquest proceedings, findings and any possible recommendations are distinct and separate from any previous findings of the chief coroner in these two cases,” according to a statement from the coroner’s office.

Scheunert, 47, died June 21, 2012 and Johnny, 60, died less than two months later on Aug. 9.

In Scheunert’s case, a coroner’s report was released on June 14, 2013, only to be retracted within a few hours. A new report was released on July 9 with significant changes.

Macdonald’s report ruled that Scheunert died of mixed drug toxicity.

That was contradicted by a later patient safety review, ordered by the hospital corporation, which said it was an irregular heartbeat that killed the registered nurse.

Johnny died of a bowel obstruction after being originally diagnosed as having alcohol withdrawal.

The Scheunert family has publicly raised concerns about their inability to find and afford a lawyer to represent them at the inquest.

At the inquest it will be Leibel’s job to rule on things like witnesses and evidence. A jury of six will hear the evidence and then decide how the women died. The jury also has the option of making recommendations for how to prevent similar deaths in the future.

In 2012, Leibel presided over an inquest into the deaths of three Langley mushroom farm workers who died after inhaling toxic gases.

Inquests do not find fault or criminal responsibility. They are designed to be a public airing of facts. Any recommendations made by an inquest jury are not legally binding.

With files from Jacqueline Ronson

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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