Will County coroner announces retirement

Retirement comes about 2 months away from next coroner election

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Will County Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil will retire Monday after holding that position for 28 years.

O’Neil’s retirement comes about two months away from an election that will decide the new coroner.

O'Neil's retirement was announced last Thursday on the Will County Coroner's Office Facebook page. In a news release, O'Neil, first elected as coroner in 1992, said his retirement is a "bittersweet moment but for personal reasons, I have to retire."

“It’s now time to move into the next phase of my life,” O’Neil said in a statement. “I have genuinely enjoyed and valued my position as Will County coroner and will miss my job. It has been my honor to serve Will County.”

O'Neil made it known publicly last year that he planned to not run for reelection. He said he "decided that this is the time for me to step away at the end of this term and take over our family business."

That family business is O'Neil Funeral Home P.C. and Heritage Crematory in Lockport.

Bill Thoman, former chairman of the Will County Central Democratic Committee, said he had spoken with O’Neil about his electoral future and that O’Neil wanted his salary as coroner to be increased for the first time in more than a decade.

Democrat Laurie Summers, the Will County deputy chief coroner, and Republican James Piacentini, a Crete Township trustee, are competing on the ballot for the coroner position for the Nov. 3 election. Zohaib Khan of Plainfield is running as a write-in candidate.

Summers resigned from the Will County Board last year after taking a job in the coroner's office. She was collecting signatures ahead of filing to run for the job while O'Neil was weighing his decision to run again.

O’Nell has said he supervised more than 80,000 death investigations during his time as coroner and he lobbied for and opened the county’s first morgue in 2002.

Among those investigations were several high-profile cases, including the 2004 death of former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson's third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning until Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy Peterson disappeared.

Savio’s case was reopened and her death was later ruled a homicide for which Drew Peterson was convicted.

Savio's case led to the Will County Board debating in 2008 on whether to approve putting a referendum on the ballot that would ask voters if the county should replace elected coroners with an appointed medical examiner.

The measure was narrowly defeated in a 14-12 vote by the board and the issue has not been resurrected since then.

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News