Cook County Medical Examiner posts photos of unidentified bodies
March 6, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office has updated their website to link unidentified remains with that of a family member.
The new site, starting Wednesday, will have information on unidentified bodies, including physical descriptions, details on clothing, and in some cases, pictures will be posted. Because the subject matter is sensitive, a disclaimer will caution people about the graphic nature of the site and images can't be copied.
"People will search the site from around the country and say that matches my missing daughter or son," said Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina.
He says the system has already helped in the case of a missing woman from Michigan.
For people like Regina O'Neal, the trip to the medical examiner's office is a search for answers about a friend's homeless uncle who's been missing for more than a month.
"Well it's a lot of anguish," said O'Neal.
"When we started putting all these cases in we said that'll be a lot of hard work but if we can even reunite one with their family, it's all worth it," said Cina.
He says in many cases, the identity of the dead is what eludes them.
Aside from the unidentified, there are also nearly 50 unclaimed bodies. For many, the names are known, but they have no one left with the money or desire to pay for burial.
In 2012, the ABC7 I-Team uncovered cases in which unidentified remains were poorly handled, with bodies stacking up.
Cina was brought in to change that. He believes he has made a difference.
"I told everyone when I first got here, I'm not going to see a body on the floor here and so far they've listened to me," said Cina.
As for O'Neal, she recently learned her friend's missing uncle is not among the dead.
"Not knowing is anguish and finding out is grief. But if you've been looking for someone for quite some time, you want some closure," said O'Neal.
The website also explains how to obtain records and reports from the ME's office, provides information for funeral directors, directions to the facility and answers frequently asked questions.
The website will also feature a page listing identified remains that have not been claimed for final disposition. This list, without photos, will be updated biweekly.
"Cook County officials hope family members who have lost contact with a loved one will check its list to see if that person is at the medical examiner's office. Publication of this list will facilitate reunification of the deceased with their family members and will avoid burial at public expense," a news release says.
The website may be viewed at http://www.cookcountyil.gov/MedicalExaminer.
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