MARIA SUDEKUM FISHER, Associated Press Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Three individuals have been identified so far among six heads and numerous other human body parts found in a truck at a Kansas medical waste facility, including at least one man who was to have been cremated, a coroner said Tuesday.
Sealed plastic bags containing the parts were found last week in 12 large red plastic tubs inside a delivery truck at a Stericycle Inc. facility in Kansas City, Kan., that disposes of medical waste. Stericycle disposes of waste such as operating room debris or syringes but doesn't incinerate major body parts, Wyandotte County coroner Alan C. Hancock said.
Each tub had a shipping label from The Learning Center, which is affiliated with Bio Care, an Albuquerque, New Mexico company that distributes bodies for medical research.
A man who answered the phone Tuesday at Bio Care and identified himself only as Paul said his company wasn't involved. Paul Montano is listed as the owner of Bio Care, also known as Bio Care Southwest.
"Everybody uses Stericycle in the medical field," he said. "I guess what happened, they linked it coming out of this area. But it could have come from Texas, El Paso. It could have come from anywhere."
A Stericycle spokeswoman said the Lake Forest, Ill.-based company wasn't commenting.
Hancock has been working to identify the body parts.
"They're not supposed to be sending bodies here," he said. "They're supposed to be cremating them, putting them in urns and giving them to the family."
Police in Kansas City and Albuquerque referred all calls to Hancock, who said Stericycle employees first became concerned a few weeks ago when they found a head in their incineration facility.
The company notified police and said the head was part of a Learning Center shipment. Police told Stericycle to notify them when the next shipment from the center arrived, which was March 22.
Hancock said he has identified two men and one woman so far. He wouldn't release their names, but said the woman — identified through her dentures — was from the Southwest U.S.
In the case of one of the men, Hancock said he was able to find a death certificate based on a medical identification tag on an arm. The certificate said the man had been cremated. Hancock said an Albuquerque funeral director told him the man's body had been delivered in a sealed box from Bio Care — standard procedure after the company harvests a body for research, Hancock said.
Hancock said the funeral director told him the box with that man's remains were sent to the crematorium.
"There's a death certificate that says they cremated something," Hancock said. "I have a guy who's supposed to have been cremated by a funeral home in Albuquerque in September."
Amy Boule, director of operations for the New Mexico Office of Medical Investigator in Albuquerque, said Montano is an on-call deputy medical investigator for her agency. On-call investigators respond to reports of dead bodies. They can declare someone dead, take photos and interview next of kin to help recreate circumstances for the agency, she said.
Boule said Montano's work with Bio Care has nothing to do with his work at her agency.
She said she was unaware of New Mexico regulations regarding the transportation of body parts. She also said some families who signed up with Bio Care might not have wanted the remaining body parts cremated.
"Who knows if the families were fully informed ... and if they gave permission ... and if all the paperwork is in order, then it may seem weird," Boule said, "but it's better than dumping them in the regular trash.
"It's still creepy that suddenly these buckets of body parts show up," she said. "Generally, there must be something wrong with this, but I don't know what the regulations are."