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Human body parts found in Florida storage locker

August 28, 2012|By Rene Lynch

A man who purchased the contents of a Florida storage locker made a grisly discovery when he found a batch of crudely preserved human organs inside, including hearts, brains and lungs.

One heart was reportedly found in a 32-ounce drink cup filled with formaldehyde.

Pensacola police are still trying to determine the source of the organs, locate survivors and figure out why the owner -- a former medical examiner -- had them. They're also trying to assess whether any laws were broken in the disposal of the human remains.

A phone call to Pensacola police was not immediately returned Tuesday by the time this story was posted. But the Associated Press reported that the locker contents had been traced to the previous renter, Dr. Michael Berkland.

Berkland worked at the District 1 office of the Florida Medical Examiner from 1997 until 2003, when he was fired for not completing autopsy reports, according to the Associated Press. Berkland is also believed to have been performing private autopsies as well, the news service reported.

Unclear, however, is whether the body parts came from those autopsies or from another source.

Many of the body parts found were not labeled, the news service reported. That raises the possibility that  survivors might never be notified, or might forever wonder whether their loved ones' organs were among those found inside the locker.

"How horrible it is for the families of these deceased to think that someone's loved one's organs are basically rotting away in a storage unit somewhere. It's horrible," Jeff Martin, director of the District 1 medical examiner's office in Pensacola, told the Associated Press.

An email to the medical examiner's office and a phone call placed to Berkland's last known attorney were also not returned before this story was posted on Tuesday.

The man who purchased the contents of the storage locker reportedly realized something was amiss when he came across a foul odor while assessing the items inside the storage facility, according to the Associated Press.

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