PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - The Florida State Attorney's Office is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to add charges of theft against former medical examiner Michael Berkland.
In September 2012, authorities discovered more than 100 human organs and tissue in a Pensacola storage unit that Berkland had been renting.
Medical officials said the parts found inside were 10 to 15 years old and appear to have all been from private autopsies that Berkland had performed while also working at the District 1 medical examiner's office from 1997 to 2003.
"We found complete human hearts. We found complete human brains, still intact," said Director of the District One Medical Examiner's Office Jeff Martin. "They hadn't been dissected or sectioned, which normally part of the autopsy process is to actually look at the tissue."
After the gruesome discovery, Berkland was arrested on conservation and disturbing the peace charges.
Medical officials have been working to contact family members whose loved one's organs were found in the unit.
"I mean a lot of these families that we talked to had no idea," said Martin. "Making that telephone call to them and having to explain to them that we actually have the brain or the heart of one of their loved ones, I mean it's just extremely shocking to them."
The medical examiner's office said he was given several chances to complete them but never did. Officials said complaints from family members about Berkland's work kept piling up.
Michelle Helderman is one of those complainants.
She said she had been dealing with Berkland for years following the death of her baby back in 1998 in South Carolina.
"I was in the hospital for about 6 hours in labor, and I wasn't dilating so they decided to do a c-section," said Helderman.
She said doctors informed her that the baby was still-born. Helderman, however, said she had her doubts.
In a deposition, a midwife present during the birth testified that she had felt the baby's heart beat.
After moving to Pensacola in 2001, Helderman decided to exhume the baby's body in 2004 so that Berkland could investigate.
"At my house, Berkland looked over all my paperwork and said he would help me out with my case and said he thought there was something fishy about everything," said Helderman.
She claims she paid him $4,000 for an autopsy and DNA test.
Lab officials, however, said they were unable to extract any DNA and believed that the body had been tainted.
Helderman said she got the autopsy report back after more than a year and found discrepancies with the report, specifically the baby's dimensions.
The medical examiner's office said there is not much they can do to investigate Helderman's case at this point.
The office said it has gotten numerous complaints from families throughout the area with similar stories about Berkland.
"Our big thing in this that we've heard from a lot of families is that they just never heard back from him. These are cases where the family would pay him to perform the service and then he would never issue autopsy reports in the cases," said Jeff Martin.
FOX10 has reached out to Berkland and his attorney Eric Stevenson on numerous occasions but they have yet to comment.
Meanwhile, the criminal case against the former medical examiner is moving forward. Florida State Attorney Bill Eddins said he expects to add additional charges of theft.
"We had a conference call with all 20 state attorneys throughout Florida shortly after this, and I asked if any of them had any experience with anything of this nature; and nobody had," said Eddins.
FOX10 also learned Berkland's medical liscence was also revoked in Missouri, where he last worked as a medical examiner.
Authorities said they had similar problems with Berkland's case loads.
The former ME is expected in court on his most recent charges January 9. Trial is set for January 22.
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