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Murders down, suicide rate up

YAKIMA - Homicides dropped by nearly half in Yakima County during 2006 from the previous year, though suicides reached levels not seen since 2002.

That's according to the annual summary released recently by Yakima County Coroner Maurice Rice.

There were a total of 1,746 deaths recorded in Yakima County during 2006, Rice reported, with the coroner assuming jurisdiction over 325 of them. Of those, autopsies were performed on 70 of them, largely due to the fact the deaths were violent or because of unknown circumstances.

Of the 325 deaths assigned to Rice's jurisdiction last year, 207 were from natural causes. The coroner also had 48 hospice cases in 2006.

Rice said there were a total of 14 homicide deaths in 2006, down sharply from 24 in 2005. All but three of last year's homicide deaths were due to a gunshot wound.

In 2006 there were 33 suicide deaths in Yakima County, up 50 percent from the 2005 total of 22.

There were 41 traffic fatalities in the county during 2006, with 28 of them testing positive for alcohol and/or drug consumption, Rice reports. Five of the traffic deaths were pedestrians. Last year's total traffic fatality count is almost unchanged from 2005.

All told, 23 of those who died from traffic accidents in 2006 were younger than 30 years of age.

Yakima County saw 24 accidental deaths in 2006, up slightly from 20 in 2005. The largest single group of people to die by accidental death last year (10) were those who died as a result of accidental drug overdoses. There were four accidental deaths by freshwater drowning last year.

In summarizing the 2006 results, Rice credited law enforcement agencies, funeral homes and pathologists in Yakima County for assisting him with his coroner responsibilities.

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