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From banking to bodies, coroner tells how he 'fell into' his beloved job

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Deputy Coroner Kent Dill. (File/FOX Carolina) Deputy Coroner Kent Dill. (File/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

They show up at crime scenes, hospital rooms and homes, and they're the ones who break the news every day to families whose loved ones have died.

In South Carolina, coroners are not usually doctors or medical professionals, but they deal with human life and investigate crimes and unusual deaths so the rest of us can rest easy.

One of the longest working in Greenville County is deputy coroner Kent Dill. He told Fox Carolina's Dana Wachter how he "fell into" his passion and role as coroner.

He's not the one performing the autopsy, but he's there as the medical examiner works, sharing evidence from the scene. He helps determine just how a person died or was killed.

"Certain people don't enjoy it; certain people wouldn't do it," Dill explained. "There's not enough money in the world to pay them to do it, but other people like us find it interesting, intriguing."

Dill spends his days and nights on call or on the scene of often-violent crimes in the region.

"I think we all have to feel like that we're able to make a contribution and maybe make a family's burden just a little bit less if we handle things professionally and if we have compassion for them," Dill said. "Mainly, if we give them good solid answers to questions that will absolutely haunt them if they don't have answers."

He's been giving families answers for more than 26 years. For more than 20 of those years, he was also a banker.

"I enjoyed banking. Banking was a good profession, worked with a lot of good companies," Dill said.

The Greenville native's roots grew from the Judson and Monaghan Mills. He went to Wade Hampton High School, then the University of South Carolina. After a few years in real estate, he worked for American Federal Bank, which later evolved into SunTrust.

In 1986, he began part-time work with the coroner's office. He said his friend Stan McKinney was coroner, "and so I was interested in it, just from having seen him do it."

Dill said McKinney let him become more involved when he needed help. Dill would work his long days at the bank and then, twice a month, he'd be on call on the weekends. He also worked every Wednesday night.

"It was kind of an interesting combination. I'm a hometown guy. … A lot of the people I've known in the banking business I've come across in this office as well," Dill said.

The job isn't for the faint of heart. Dill is accustomed to being called at all hours of the night.

"I don't really require a lot of sleep,"said Dill. "I've been able to get by with not a lot of sleep for many years, and I used to, back in the early days, I could stay up for two or three days at a time. Now it's a little more difficult as I get older."

After dozens of years, his wife now knows the drill very well.

"We understand the schedule," Dill said. "We travel in two cars most places that we go when I'm on call, just because the likelihood of me having to go on a call is there."

A grandfather of two, Dill retired five years ago from banking. Answering calls is now his full-time gig. Dill rotates being first on call, weekly, with the three other deputy coroners.

"It really is an exciting job. It's an interesting job," said Dill. "There's a lot to try to figure out. And then you have the opportunity hopefully to help families as they get through the most difficult part of their life."

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