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Long-serving Larimer County Coroner Dr. James Wilkerson will resign in early September, his last official day as the county coroner was September 2.
Wilkerson is a triple-board certified forensic pathologist, which is a medical doctor specializing in clinical, anatomic, and forensic pathology that determines the cause of death when a person dies unexpectedly. Wilkerson has completed thousands of forensic autopsies, and hundreds of scene investigations, and testified in numerous court cases.
He has been practicing for the past 25 years, 14 of those with Larimer County, and serves as the Larimer County Regional Medical Examiner.
Before working with Larimer County, Wilkerson trained on a U.S. Army scholarship at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and later completed advanced training at the Brooke Army Medical Center, and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C.
He served 11 years in the U.S. Army and then served as Vice Chief of Staff, and later, Chief of Staff for five years at Mercy Medical Center in Merced, California, and then in a leadership role in general pathology practice for 10 years. Wilkerson also was the chair of the ethics committee and president of the Merced-Mariposa County Medical Society in Merced, California.
Wilkerson’s term was set to end in January 2023, after the 2022 November general election. To comply with Colorado State Statue [C.R.S. 1-12-209], the Board of Larimer County Commissioners is required to fill the Office of the Coroner vacancy. Because of the timing of Wilkerson’s resignation and proximity to the November election the board has chosen to fill the vacancy with a non-political appointee to serve the remainder of Wilkerson’s term.
Gary A. Darling will be appointed to fill the vacant position on Sept. 6 during the Board of County Commissioners‘ regularly scheduled Administrative Matters meeting and sworn into office by 8th Judicial District Chief Judge Susan Blanco at the Larimer County Justice Center immediately following his appointment. Although not a candidate for coroner in the 2022 election, Darling brings significant experience to the position, including 30 years with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. He was later appointed as director of Criminal Justice Services, now known as Community Justice Alternatives.
“The Board of County Commissioners wishes Dr. Wilkerson all the best in his new endeavors,” said Board Chair Kristin Stephens. “The Larimer County Coroner’s Office is in good hands moving forward. With Gary’s leadership experience and the high-quality professionals staffing the office, we know our community will continue to receive excellent customer service throughout this transition period.”
Darling is the only two-time recipient of the prestigious 2020 Conrad Ball Award, given to an individual who has significantly contributed to improving the quality of criminal justice in Larimer County. The Larimer County Behavioral Health Services annual Gary A. Darling Grant — named after him — is given to one stand-out program or project related to alternative and intervention services in the criminal justice system. Darling will serve as the coroner until the November 2022 general election winner is sworn into office in January 2023.
“I am honored the Larimer County Commissioners and the county manager have asked me to fill this position, said Darling. “I know we have a professional Coroner’s Office, and I am looking forward for the opportunity to continue the professionalism of the office and the great employees who work there for this short period of time.”
Larimer County has also hired Dr. Joseph White, an experienced forensic pathologist to continue Wilkerson’s work in the Larimer County Coroner’s Regional facility. White hails from Augusta, Georgia, where he served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at Augusta University. White also served as the Co-Director of the Forensic Pathology Fellowship at the university, teaching other physicians how to perform autopsies.
Before teaching, White worked for five years performing forensic autopsies at the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He completed his Forensic Fellowship with the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner in 2011.
Larimer County is one of four other coroner’s offices in Colorado accredited by the National Association of Medical Examiners and is one of less than 100 offices in the country that are currently accredited. The accreditation requires early review, regular inspection of facilities, policies, procedures, and documentation or postmortem examinations
Wilkerson plans to relocate near family in San Antonio, Texas. “This relocation is a long-long dream come true for my wife and me,” said Wilkerson. He’ll continue working as a forensic pathologist and is looking forward to spending the weekends and time off with his grandchildren.