BROWNSTOWN TOWNSHIP (WWJ/AP) – A public memorial service was held Wednesday for 200 unnamed people.
A coalition consisting of The Jewish Fund, the Archdiocese of Detroit and area funeral homes came together to ensure that the bodies — which have gone unclaimed at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office — are buried in individual graves at local cemeteries.
The remains had been kept, some of them for years, in the morgue’s storage freezer.
Prior to the formation of the coalition, unclaimed bodies in Wayne County were buried four to a crypt in wooden boxes at an unmarked grave sites at Knollwood Cemetery in Canton.
“These people are being buried with dignity and respect,” said David Techner of the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield.
The first of unclaimed bodies at the morgue were laid to rest at Our Lady of Hope Cemetery in Brownstown Township on Wednesday.
The coalition said all 200 bodies that have been sitting in the county morgue long-term will be laid to rest in individual, marked graves within 30 days.
“The coalition has ensured that all of those who have remained at the Wayne County Morgue long-term will be buried…” a statement about the service read. “More importantly, the coalition has established a plan to ensure that this situation never happens again in Wayne County.”
Reverend Lewis Bruce spoke at the interfaith service:
“I think it’s very important, I’ve been talking to these families – they already feel closure – they feel that their loved one has been honored,” said Rev. Bruce.
Kathy Gummel was there on behalf of her friend Matthew Morris:
“His family has not come forward to claim him, we tried to claim him as his friends, none of us are blood related . He had been in the morgue 15 months and this here is absolutely wonderful,” she said.
So, who are these people?
Sometimes bodies go unclaimed when family members don’t the means to pay for burial; but, according to Michigan State Police Detective Trooper Sarah Krebs many people with missing loved ones are apprehensive about finding out the truth.
At an event held last week to try to some of the remains held at the Wayne County morgue, police worked to match the bodies them to family reference DNA donated by families of missing persons.
“We hope that most of them would choose to know rather than not know, so if they could come in, at least take that first step in getting their DNA on file to see if we can match it up,” Krebs said.
Currently there are about 4,000 documented missing persons cases in the Michigan.
State police, Detroit police and the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office partner twice a year to help identify missing persons – the next event will be scheduled for December. Check MSP’s website this fall for more information.
TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.