Christina Stueve Hodges Oct. 30, 2012, 1:21pm

Madison County voters will choose between a longtime incumbent and an area doctor for Coroner, an office which investigates death when persons die before their time.

The office is an important one as a coroner has the same powers of law enforcement as the sheriff’s office - a coroner has the power of arrest.

Stephen Nonn, 60, was first elected Coroner in November 2000, and has been re-elected twice in 2004 and again in 2008.

Nonn is a former lieutenant for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

“There’s a satisfaction when you’re dealing with people in the worst times of their lives, losing a loved one,” Nonn said over the telephone. “You can guide them through the process and provide answers they’re seeking in the death of their loved one.”

“I can perform investigation of death as a professional who’s done this going on 38 years now."

If re-elected, Nonn said he would continue operating the office budget efficiently and make sure his investigators are educated.

“We will continue to battle this rise in overdose drug deaths, especially heroin in Madison County,” he said. “We started it over a year ago with Project Death Smart, and making available a video to parents and students to educate them on the dangers of heroin abuse and prescription drug abuse.”

Nonn has a web site, “” and a Facebook page, “Steve Nonn For Coroner,” which has had more than 1,000 visitors.

“It gives a good understanding of what we’re doing in the community,” he said.

Nonn was a lieutenant and detective for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, where he was employed 26 years. He was a member of the St. Louis Major Case Squad from 1980 through 2000. He attained the rank of deputy commander.

Nonn graduated from Granite City Senior High School, and Belleville Area College. He has a bachelor’s degree in the administration of justice from McKendree College. He also attended the University of Illinois Police Training Institute.

He attended St. Louis Metropolitan Major Case Squad Death Investigation Training annual training 1980-2000, the St. Louis University School of Medicine Basic Death Investigation in 1999 and St. Louis University School of Medicine Masters Death Investigation in 2001.

In the past, Nonn worked for St. Louis International Airport Security from 1971-1973, Madison County Courthouse Security from 1972-1974, Madison County Sheriff’s Department Patrol Division from 1974-1979, Madison County Sheriff’s Department Detective Division from 1979-2000.

The Republican candidate for office, Kathy Paletta Vest, 55, is a medical doctor with a medical degree from St. Louis University.

In the past, she has worked for Healthline Occupational Health from 1988-1990, as Chrysler Plant physician in Fenton from 1989-1990; and as British Petroleum corporate physician in 1990. She worked in private practice in Alton from 1991-1993. Since 1993, she has been a medical consultant.

Vest is married with seven children.

She is running for office in part because of a sense of duty to serve. She said her father served in World War II as an Army battalion surgeon.

“I believe it is my duty to serve my community and country, like my father did, in a capacity in which I am trained,” she said in an email.

According to Vest, what sets her apart from her opponent is she is “medically qualified and licensed to pronounce death and sign a death certificate.”

She said she has extensive scientific training in morbidity and mortality and 21 years of experience in business management.

Her priorities are to perform the duties of the coroner personally, work closely with law enforcement and educators to address drug and alcohol addiction with emphasis on the heroin crisis and to enforce laws "equally and without prejudice or favoritism."

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