RICHMOND, Va. – Across Virginia, 47 unidentified bodies remain unclaimed in the offices of medical examiners.
This summer, family and friends who may be looking for them will finally get a chance at closure when photographs and information of all 47 bodies will be featured on a Web site.
The National Association of Medical Examiners and The International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners developed the site as a public service project. So far, it includes 380 cases from across the country, though none are from Virginia.
Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Marcella Fierro said that will soon change.
"If someone is sitting in a medical examiner's office unidentified and there's a family looking for him or her, who should you connect them to? The person who has the body," Fierro said.
Visitors to the Web site can search by various identifying factors, such as ethnicity, age and bodily features. Relatives seeking information on lost loved ones will also be able to submit a DNA sample to confirm an identity.
The body of one unidentified Hispanic man has been kept in the Richmond morgue since 1982. Information about his clothing and pictures of his reconstructed face and jewelry will eventually be available on the Web site.
It's difficult to determine the exact date the information will be posted because training and DNA testing are still needed, Fierro said.
"It's very labor intensive to do this," she said. "We have to pull all the cases."
Fierro said she hopes the data will finally provide answers to those seeking lost loved ones.
"All medical examiners have these cases," she said. "And they just haunt you because you know somebody is looking, and we haven't been able to get a connection before."