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Policy Changed at Rat-Plagued Crypt

April 20, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County coroner's office will soon begin cremating unidentified and unclaimed bodies stored in a crypt where rats recently were found.

A dozen of the roughly 60 bodies in the long-term storage facility had been partly eaten by rats. Workers had complained that the problem was the result of keeping unpreserved corpses for extended periods; one of them had been dead since 1995.

Coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey on Friday said his office had erred in keeping the bodies until all leads on identification and next of kin had been exhausted. Now, bodies unidentified or unclaimed for longer than six months will be marked for cremation.

Nearly 50 bodies have been marked for cremation, which could begin as early as next week, he said.

"We've come to the realization that we're storing bodies longer than we need to," he said.

Exterminators continue to visit the crypt daily in an effort to wipe out the rat infestation, which was discovered in February.

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