NEWBERRY COUNTY — At the age of 13 Laura Kneece made her way to South Carolina from Virginia after her parents decided to move to Elgin in 1989.
Kneece’s father, Phil Grimes, worked for the Fairfax County Police Department, and when he retired he decided to move his family to South Carolina to provide a better life for his family.
“He had a sister that lived down here with five acres on a pond, so my parents bought that property from her. They also bought her some property and built her another little house to live in,” said Kneece, who was born in Fairfax, Va.
This allowed Kneece, who is running as a Republican for Newberry County Coroner, to attend Lugoff-Elgin High School in Lugoff from which she graduated in 1995. After graduating from high school, she went to Francis Marion University for a semester, but she said college life was not for her, so she moved back to Elgin.
After moving back she began working with the S.C. Department of Public Safety Bureau of Protective Services as a receptionist.
“They do security for all the state agencies here in Columbia, DHEC, the governor’s mansion, the State House, things like that,” Kneece said.
Through the Bureau of Protective Services Kneece became certified through the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Kneece continued to work there until she was 22 and in February 1999, she began working for the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.
“I was there for 10 years, I worked five years on the road and as a school resource officer, and I also worked five years in crime scenes. Between those two I was able to finish up my associate’s degree at Midlands Tech and my bachelor’s degree from Kaplan University in criminal justice,” Kneece said.
She left the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department after her parents, Phil and Ginny Grimes, moved back to Virginia after Phil Grimes was offered a job he could not refuse. They also wanted to be closer to her grandmother because she was getting up in age.
“So my husband at the time and I decided to move to Virginia for some better opportunities, you know living outside of D.C., more federal jobs and that type of thing,” Kneece said.
In Virginia, Kneece worked as a pre-trial officer at Rappahannock Regional Jail, which required her to monitor defendants who were out on bond and make sure they stayed within their bond requirements.
Kneece stayed in Virginia for about a year and in 2010 they moved back to South Carolina. She was hired on with the Lexington County Coroner’s Office as their forensic death investigator, a position she held for five years.
Last year she began working at Newberry Pathology with Dr. Pat Ross at Newberry Pathology as a morgue assistant.
In South Carolina, a coroner must meet certain requirements that include but are not limited to forensic science degree or certification program and experience in death investigation or law enforcement.
“I fulfill the six original qualifications, and I also meet five out of the seven additional qualifications and you only need one of those seven. I have an associate’s degree with law enforcement experience, I have a bachelor’s degree with law enforcement experience. I hold a Class III certification through the Criminal Justice Academy, as well as a previous Class I,” she said. “The big one, I am nationally board certified in medicolegal death investigation. I am one of eight in the state that holds this. It is a fellowship certification, and one out of 203 nationally.”
Kneece said she would like to be coroner because it is the best of both worlds.
“You have your investigation, you have to have those investigation skills from the law enforcement side, but you also have to be very knowledgeable in the medical side. So you get to take both of those parts of the puzzle and put them together to get answers for families,” she said.
Kneece said it would be her honor to work for the residents of Newberry County by using her compassion, qualifications and experience to give them answers they deserve when it comes to the loss of their loved ones.
Kneece currently lives in Prosperity with her husband, Kyle, and her step-daughter Carlie Kneece, 11. They also have two foster children.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.