Trumbull County Coroner passes away
By Joe Gorman
Ask Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins about longtime friend and colleague Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, and you get a trip down memory lane.
Germaniuk, 64, died Friday in Cleveland Clinic. He had been with the county since he was hired in 1997 by commissioners as a forensic pathologist and later ran for and won the position of coroner.
Watkins reflected Saturday on past cases Germaniuk helped investigators with, including homicides dating to 1999. Oftentimes, Watkins said, Germaniuk would visit the crime scene, document the evidence, go back and do the autopsy and then write the autopsy report.
“This man has been a workaholic for the people of Trumbull County,” Watkins said. “We have been blessed with his work product.”
Watkins would not say what caused Germaniuk’s death, but he did say Germaniuk needed surgery in January, which pushed back some of his availability to testify at trial. He had been ill since then, Watkins said.
That hospitalization in January followed an auto accident after which he was taken to Trumbull Regional Medical Center to be evaluated because of a medical condition.
A trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Dr. Germaniuk was “disoriented and unsteady on his feet” when the trooper arrived. Dr. Germaniuk “stated he was sick, however did not feel fatigued prior to the crash.”
Dr. Germaniuk said at the time the illnesses he had were conditions such as diabetes, ulcer, hypertension and anemia, and he was not going to run for re-election to another term as coroner. His current term runs until the end of 2020.
Trumbull County Commissioner Chairman Dan Polivka said Germaniuk’s loss is a great one for the residents of the county.
“He will be missed,” Polivka said.
Polivka said he wants to confer with his colleagues but hopes to appoint Deputy Coroner Dr. Tom James interim coroner until the county Democratic Party can appoint a replacement. Polivka said the party has up to 45 days to make a replacement.
Watkins said that James has agreed to serve as coroner until a replacement can be picked but is not interested in assuming the position.
Germaniuk’s way of testifying before a jury was also important, Watkins said. The coroner could relate to people and that made him a good witness and also allowed him to be on good terms with police and family members who dealt with the coroner’s office, Watkins said.
He added that he tried to tell Germaniuk he was doing too much. He noted that in 2015 the coroner did 200 autopsies, most of them for victims of the area’s opiate overdose epidemic.
“I told him, ‘You’re doing too much, Doc,’” Watkins said.
Polivka also said that Germaniuk’s work as coroner trying to educate people about the opioid crisis will be greatly missed.
Watkins said Germaniuk was a unique individual who had even given medical advice to noted author James Patterson for some of his crime books.