Lake coroner’s office clearing out personal property
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com October 23, 2012 3:30PM
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey looks through a drawer packed full of unclaimed items from identified bodies at the Lake County Coroners office on Monday, October 1, 2012. Frey and her office colleagues have been struggling to keep up with the workload due to a lack of employees. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 25, 2012 11:37AM
CROWN POINT — Plastic bags full of wallets, jewelry, and packs of cigarettes filled a table at the Lake County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday.
They represent the personal property of 87 people who died, and the items remain unclaimed by relatives.
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said investigators have tried to contact families about the items for years, but occasionally relatives refuse the items. Since Frey took office on Sept. 15, she’s made it a priority to return the items, with 120 bags being handed over. Frey has turned the remaining items over to the Treasurer’s Office and Sheriff’s Department.
“I see a lot of good work that was done by the previous coroner,” Frey said. “They’ve made very good efforts to contact families, but my concern is that these items have been here for a while.”
The oldest items — a can of marijuana and a roach clip — date from 1987, and they’ve been turned over to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department for disposal. Frey said four handguns and three rifles were found among the items, so they were turned over to the Sheriff’s Department to be melted.
Relatives will be given until the end of the year to claim the items by calling 755-3000 and asking for the Coroner’s Office. After that point, all cash will given to Treasurer John Petalas to be deposited in the county general fund, and the jewelry will be auctioned off by the Sheriff’s Department with the proceeds going to the general fund.
Frey stressed that she’s following state law by transferring the personal property to the appropriate county officials after extensive efforts have been made to contact families.
Deputy coroner David Pastrick said some of the items are small, but they may hold some meaning for family members of the deceased.
“It depends on how long the item has been in the office, but most families we’ve talked to have reacted quite positively,” Pastrick said.
The Coroner’s Office has in its possession an Apple iPhone that was owned by Victor Adams, who was stabbed to death Jan. 13, 2011 outside the Copper Penny Sports Bar and Grill in Hammond. A notation on the office’s spreadsheet reads, “HOLD FOR HAMMOND PD???????”
If the person is a victim of a homicide, Pastrick said that the office typically notifies police about items that might be used as part of an investigation.