Nameless Dead Fill Coroner's Office

July 24, 2006

Reported by Libby White

Not everyone will wind up in a cemetery after they die. "We'll see eight to ten John or Jane Doe bodies in this office just this year," says Zeb Johnson with the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office. John and Jane Does are victims of suspicious circumstances, like homicides or drug overdoses, according to Johnson. "A lot of these people are never ever reported missing, so it becomes a very difficult thing to identify the body because you have no reference values," said Johnson.

Even if the body has good dental and fingerprints to go off of, if the person is not in some sort of criminal database or hasn't been reported missing; it's very difficult to positively ID the body. The Coroner's Office even had a facial reconstruction done in hopes of identifying one man whose body was found in Beauregard Parish back in 1994. "A lot of times we have good dental," explains Johnson. "But we can't match the dental work because we don't have any idea of where to start or where these people might be from." He says they also had a Jane Doe who was found in Vinton back in 1991 and was never identified. Her body was sent to Louisiana State University for training and teaching purposes.

Bodies can also end up being cremated or sometimes even buried without a marker or headstone. "Our main concern is not burying them and getting them out of this office, but really finding out who they are," said Johnson. The Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office is currently trying to figure out who seven Jane or John Does are.

"Identifying" the bodies isn't the only problem. Tuesday morning on Sunrise, we'll have how families sometimes won't claim a body after it's identified and why that winds up costing taxpayers.