In what seems like an episode of Storage Hunters meets The Silence of the Lanbs, investigators are trying to determine what happened to the people whose brains, hearts and lungs were found in a Pensacola, Fla., storage unit. The unit, which had belonged to medical examiner, Dr. Michael Berkland, was auctioned off by Uncle Bob’s Storage the week of August 19, 2012. Early on, the new owners noticed a foul odor coming from the unit, and soon found the remains. According to investigators, the remains of more than 100 people have been stored, crudely, in plastic food storage containers, garbage bags and beverage cups. It seems that at least some of the remains were stored in formaldehyde, and at least one of the cups had cracked and leaked on the floor of the unit. Jeff Martin, director of Pensacola’s District 1 Medical Examiner’s Office told the Associated Press, “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.” Berkland worked for Pensacola’s medical examiner from 1997 until 2003, when he was fired for not completing his medical reports. Before that he was a medical examiner in Jackson County, Mo., where he was also fired. Missouri later revoked his license.
Police still have a lot of unanswered questions, and they have yet to interview Berkland, who has wisely lawyered-up. The more obvious questions are: How did Berkland get the remains, and where and who did they come from? A not-so-obvious question investigators are trying to answer is: Did he break any laws? Amazingly, prosecutors don’t think so. Unless the body parts were stored there for sexual purposes, Berkland may only have committed some code violations. When all is said and done, police also have the unenviable job of notifying the families and explaining how this could possibly happen to their loved ones.