Fox 59 investigates as more families come forward about issues with the Marion County Coroner's Office. A spokesperson for the office maintains the cases aren't very cut and dry.
The family of Carl Bailey said it's been a nightmare of a week. They said the Coroner's Office picked up his remains on Nov. 18. but didn’t find out about his death until two weeks later.
Bailey’s sister, Marietta Gurnell, said they found out the worst way possible. Gurnell sends a card to her younger brother on his birthday every year. She never imagined that small sentimental message would be sent back -- along with a terrible one.
“I wanted him to know that he was thought of and loved,” said Gurnell. “I went to retrieve my mail and in the mail was my birthday card that I sent to my brother was there. Someone had written 'deceased' on it.”
Gurnell drove to her brother's apartment to see what was going on. Neighbors told her the Coroner's Office had picked up his body two weeks ago -- a day after Carl was supposed to turn 58.
“If I was the coroner and I went into someone's house, got them out of their bedroom, I would have called their emergency contacts,” said Washawna Bailey, Carl’s daughter. “That would have been the first thing I would have done."
Washawna said Carl's body was so decomposed the Coroner's office could not give him a positive ID. The Chief Deputy Coroner tells Fox 59 they have gad more than 100 cases since mid-November. Her office told Carl’s family he was one of a few who were John Does.
But as they prepare to lay Carl to rest, his family maintains more could have been done.
“They had my name in their computer as one of the next of kin,” said Gurnell. “They had another niece's name there. They have family names. If not telephone numbers, they had names. They could have found us. That's the part that is so upsetting to me.”
The Coroner's Office said, quite often, it's hard to notify family because people don't call the office to inquire about a death, nor do they file missing persons reports.
Carl's family said his body has been released and transported to a mortuary where he will be cremated.
The Coroner's Office released the following statement Friday:
"We spent a great deal of time working on identification. Fingerprinting a decomposed body has challenges.
"Additionally, we did have names of two people and phone numbers listed as emergency contacts were disconnected.
"Medical records search yielded no names or phone numbers of any family. Searches online for Marietta Gurnell yielded no public phone numbers and two different addresses for which letters were initiated."