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44 Bodies Have Lain In Morgue For At Least 10 Months

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cook County Board President's office says a staggering 44 bodies have been in the morgue cooler for 10 months or longer, awaiting burial.

As WBBM Newsradio's Steve Miller reports, county Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th), has pushed for reforms in the burial of indigents, and to say he is troubled by the revelation would be an understatement.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Steve Miller reports


"I'm neither surprised nor alarmed," Fritchey said. "I'm deeply disturbed and concerned."

Fritchey said reforms are needed at the county Medical Examiner's office, and they're needed right now.

"First and foremost, we have to look at the systems that are in place and see where the problem is. There's no reason why we should be having backlogs of burials going more than 10 months in time," Fritchey said. "We need to figure out how those systems need to be changed, change them, and get these changes put in place as soon as we can."

And it shouldn't be a huge ordeal to implement the reforms, Fritchey said.

"This is not rocket science," he said. "We can look to other jurisdictions to see how they do this. They don't have the problems that we do. So obviously something isn't working the right way."

The report of the backlog of bodies comes on the heels of numerous other complaints about conditions at the morgue. Last week, a funeral director called the state of the morgue "horrendous."

The funeral director talked about one recent incident where he had arrived at the Medical Examiner's office recently to pick up a body.

"They brought out a body," he tells WBBM Newsradio. "It was 400 pounds and decomposed, in three inches of liquid. And I said, 'Now what do you want me to do with this?' And everybody disappeared.

WBBM Newsradio has been told that the Medical Examiner is not doing interviews right now.

But Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones said last week that a recent rise in the number of bodies at the morgue has happened, in part, because the State of Illinois has slashed aid to help pay for burials, the Sun-Times Media Wire reported.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has sent a team to the medical examiner's office to look at the system.

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