Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Police: Former Medical Examiner Kept Brains, Lungs in Storage Unit

Dr. Michael Berkland, 57. Police photo.

A former medical examiner, who was fired from the District 1 Medical Examiner’s Office in Pensacola in 2003, has been arrested after over 100 containers holding crudely preserved human organs were allegedly found in his storage unit last month. The grisly discovery took place after Dr. Michael Berkland, 57, defaulted on payments on the unit he’d rented for three years. The contents of the unit,which Berkland said were furniture, sporting goods and other mundane items, were auctioned off as-is and purchased by a man who noticed a strange smell wafting from a stack of ten cardboard boxes. According to an arrest affidavit, the boxes contained ”numerous individual containers with … human remains stored in a liquid substance.”

Only half of the containers found in the boxes were medical-grade, states the affidavit, the rest were food storage tubs or plastic drink cups. The labeled containers held human brains, lungs, hearts and other organs in a solution of formaldehyde and methyl alcohol, said authorities.

Berkland had worked at the District 1 Medical Examiner’s Office in Pensacola since 1997, until being fired and losing his license in 2003 for failing to complete autopsy reports. The Penasacola’s medical examiner’s office has stated that the organs found in the storage unit likely came from private autopsies performed by Berkland at funeral homes. Authorities have notified relatives of the deceased persons whose organs are suspected to have been found.

Berkland is charged with improper storage of hazardous waste, keeping a public nuisance and driving with a suspended license. More charges may be filed. He was jailed and released on $10,000 bail.

Slideshow: Keeping the Body

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