PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - A multi-agency investigation continues into the discovery of human body parts found inside a Pensacola storage unit on August 24 in an effort to determine what, if any, laws may have been broken.
Why authorities said former Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Berkland allegedly had organs locked up at Uncle Bob's Self Storage on 195 E. Fairfield Dr. is anyone's guess.
Berkland worked for the Medical Examiner's Office between 1997 and May 2003 when he was fired for failing to complete autopsy reports in a timely manner.
The discovery is being investigated by the State Attorney's Office, the Medical Examiner's Office and the Pensacola Police Department.
The remains were stored in plastic containers, specimen cups and trash bags inside Unit B12 at Uncle Bob's Storage, 195 E. Fairfield Dr.
Lungs, hearts, tissue samples, and 10 brains were among the body parts from more than 100 people found in the air-conditioned unit. The body parts were stored in formaldehyde in plastic containers, plastic bags, and even a 32-ounce Styrofoam cup from a convenience store. Some of the containers had cracked and leaked.
Jeannie Benfield rents a storage unit from Uncle Bob's Self Storage, and she said she couldn't believe the news.
"I was just totally shocked and surprised by it. I wondered how close it was to my unit," said Benfield.
The discovery was reported to police on Friday. Storage shed Manager George Klages told police contents of the unit had been sold for $900 during an auction on August 22. As the purchaser began cleaning out the unit, cardboard boxes of plastic containers holding the remains were found.
Klages told police Berkland rented the unit from April 8, 2009 until it was auctioned August 22. He said Berkland was late on rental payments several times during the lease, but usually paid right before the unit contents were to be auctioned. The storage unit also contained office furniture and other property.
It is believed the remains are from autopsies Berkland did between 1997 and 2007 at funeral homes in Pensacola, Tallahassee, Fort Walton Beach, and Panama City. There were labels on some of the containers of a person's name and autopsy date but other containers did not have identification indicators.
FOX10 went by Berkland's last known address in Pensacola but the sign on the door said it was vacated.
Michelle Ngo said she was Berkland's neighbor for several years.
"We rarely saw him during the day but he was cordial with us. He'd say hello, it's just really shocking," Ngo said. "It just makes you think about this person that was living across the street. It just makes you wonder who your neighbors are."
The remains have been given to the Medical Examiner's Office. The Pensacola Police Department is not releasing the inventory because some of the decedent families may not be aware of the investigation.
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