Morgue mismanagement led to lost remains

January 27, 2012 8:41:36 PM PST
It has been seven months since Eleanor Bridges laid her daughter, Carmelita Johnson, to rest, but the pain of not knowing what happened to her -- and now realizing her body may have been among these while a distraught family searched -- is fresh.

"I felt like giving up, I really did," Bridges said. "I didn't care too much about myself anymore."

According to Cook County records, Johnson went missing in January 2010. In May 2011, the family was informed her body had been recovered from Lake Michigan. While her family says they think she was murdered, an autopsy was inconclusive. And until now they did not know the remains of the mother of four had been found in April of 2010.

"She was just another number," said Johnson's daughter, Lancy Jackson. "Anytime I see images on the television, with trash piled up on top of human remains, that is someone's loved one."

Sources tell ABC7 that morgue mismanagement began shortly after former Cook County President Todd Stroger appointed a family friend to the morgue's No. 2 position of executive director. Kimberley Jackson is a Northwestern University MBA and leader of a church choir on whose watch too-short autopsy tables were ordered, tables that cannot be returned, wasting thousands of dollars the county does not have.

"The code of silence has moved here in the medical examiner's office," said activist Andrew Holmes. "There is plenty of disrespect here."

The Cook County president's press office called Chuck Goudie and the ABC7 I-team today to object to the use of the term "crisis" to describe what's happening at the medical examiner's office because they say "everything is under control."

The fact is, as Chuck pointed out to them, the same management and systems are still in place there.

Bodies are still piled in the cooler and significantly nothing has changed except a promise to change.