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Cook County Morgue Fails to Identify Body for 14 Months, Suit Alleges

February 8, 2012  ·  By HM&M


The Chicago law firm of Hurley, McKenna & Mertz P.C. has filed a lawsuit against the County of Cook on behalf of the family of a woman whose body lay unidentified in the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office for over fourteen [14] months.

The suit alleges that 47 year-old Carmelita Johnson went missing in Chicago in January of 2010. On April 10, 2010, Chicago Police Department officers discovered the body of Ms. Johnson on the Lake Michigan shore south of Rainbow Beach. Chicago Police transported Ms. Johnson’s body the same day to the morgue of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Ms. Johnson’s family contacted the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office weekly between January of 2010 and June of 2011, seeking information regarding their missing family member. However, employees of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office repeatedly told Ms. Johnson’s family over a fourteen-month period that they did not have her body, even though her body was at the morgue. Further, morgue employees refused to allow the family to view the remains of unidentified bodies in the morgue, despite the fact that a body matching Ms. Johnson’s description was in the morgue but unidentified.

Ultimately, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office did nothing to identify Ms. Johnson’s remains until June of 2011, despite the family’s willingness to supply the office with dental records and tissue samples throughout that fourteen-month period.

The Johnson family’s plight is highlighted by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s recent admission that she was “disturbed and disappointed and discouraged” because the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has allowed hundreds of unidentified bodies to stack up in a crowded cooler.

“The manner in which the Cook County morgue and medical examiner’s office treated Ms. Johnson’s family raises serious questions about the County’s oversight of that office. Ms. Johnson’s family is looking for answers,” according to Christopher Hurley, one of the attorneys for the Johnson family.

The case is entitled Leslie Jackson, et al. v. County of Cook, Cook County Circuit Court No. 2012 L 001477.

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