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Decades-Old Body Parts Found in Abandoned Downey Hospital; No Foul Play, Officials Say

October 05, 2006|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

When the Marines opened the ancient freezer in the abandoned building Wednesday, they found ... body parts.

The squeamish need go no further.

The macabre tale began Wednesday morning on the grounds of the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, the noted county hospital in Downey, where a group of U.S. Marines were using abandoned buildings as part of a military exercise.

The troops spotted a freezer inside one of the buildings. Upon opening it, they discovered a package full of mummified body parts.

David Sommers, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes the hospital, said the freezer was in what was once a hospital morgue.

He said the body parts, estimated to be 30 to 40 years old, probably were forgotten in a long-ago move.

The Marines called sheriff's homicide investigators, who in turn alerted the coroner's office, said Los Angeles County spokeswoman Judy Hammond.

She said the package contained 10 legs, feet and brain matter.

Also found was a sealed biohazard bag, which the Marines did not open, she said.

On examination, a pathologist said the parts were amputated medical specimens and not the result of foul play. Hammond said the county-owned building hadn't been used for 25 years or so.

The county coroner's office will dispose of the parts after a report on the incident is filed, Sommers said.

michael.kennedy@latimes.com

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