Body parts in Pensacola storage unit kept in disposable cups, bags, plastic … – (blog)

PENSACOLA, Florida — More details are emerging about the partial remains of more than 100 people discovered in a Pensacola storage locker, including the fact that several body parts were stored in household, Tupperware-style containers and trash bags, and a heart was inside a 32-ounce drink cup from a nearby convenience store.

The Associated Press reports that the man who bought the contents of the storage unit at auction Friday was overpowered by a strange smell while sifting through boxes in the unit.
Investigators found formaldehyde, a chemical used to preserve bodies, leaking from the polystyrene cup with a cracked lid and a human heart inside. The AP report also says that many body parts were stored in household plastic, resealable containers that had begun to leak because of the caustic chemicals inside. 
In total, the unit contained remains of more than 100 people, including hearts, lungs, tissue samples and 10 brains.
The storage unit had been rented by Michael Berkland, a former associate medical examiner, who was fired from the medical examiner’s office in May 2003 for keeping a large backlog of cases and failing to complete reports in a timely manner.
The motivation for keeping the remains is unclear. Jeff Martin, director of the District 1 Medical Examiner’s Office in Pensacola, told the AP that it’s unlikely the remains could be sold because they were not well-preserved.
Berkland was also fired from a job as a contract medical examiner in Jackson County, Mo. in 1996, after a dispute over caseload and his autopsy reports. 

Berkland had incorrectly stated on the reports that he had taken sections of several brains to be preserved as specimens for medical conferences and teaching purposes. He called them “proofreading errors” and the Missouri attorney general’s office found they did not jeopardize any criminal cases. 
A spokesman for the Uncle Bob’s Storage facility in which the remains were kept said that Berkland rented the unit in 2009, but nothing appeared out of the ordinary until after the auction.
The unit’s door was opened for the auction, but bidders were not allowed to enter. 
“They can view it from the aisle way,” Diane Piegza, a spokeswoman for Uncle Bob’s, told the Pensacola News Journal. “From what I understand, everything that was visible was furniture and some boxes. I believe some office furniture. Nothing was even odd when they opened up the space.”
Officials are still investigating the case to determine whether Berkland broke any laws by keeping human remains in the storage unit. No charges have been filed.
Berkland’s attorney told the AP and the News Journal that Berkland would not comment on the situation.