ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office has been facing issues with storage. They do not have enough space to store bodies.
The new St. Louis County medical examiner said far too many people are dying from homicides, drug overdoses, and suicides. It leaves limited space for the morgue.
Dr. Gershom Norfleet took over the position from Dr. Mary Case, who left the job after being there for decades.
“So, the worst time is what we had just had recently back in July. We exceeded our capacity by about 20 bodies at that particular point in time,” Norfleet said. “What was necessary for us to do was to use some of the local funeral homes that we have contracts with in order to store those bodies off-site to allow us to deal with those averages that we have. That particular cost in that situation was about $16,000.”
The situation got so challenging that the medical examiner had to buy a refrigerated trailer for $96,000 in 2020 to store the bodies.
Norfleet said the number of homicides has gone up 300 percent since 2011. The number of drug overdoses increased by about 200 percent. There’s been a rise in suicides and COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic.
It was reported by Case that two or three bodies were stacked on gurneys which were designed for one. Norfleet said not having enough space in the morgue forced them to find alternative solutions.
“Sometimes that is what we’re forced to do,” he said. “The alternative, putting somebody on the ground, putting someone where they shouldn’t be is very undignified. We would never do that.”
Norfleet said they needed a new building with more space. There’s a proposal before the St. Louis County Council to spend $300,000 on a study to tell them whether constructing a new building is a good idea.
Norfleet said there’s a real impact on the families of the deceased.
”I personally feel the impact is going to be delays, potentially, and one getting a body to a funeral home or perhaps services that could be potentially delayed, death certificates in order to handle financial affairs,” he said.
Norfleet said there’s a need for lon-term solutions.
“Due to the structural inadequacies that we do have with the building, achieving a new building would allow us to address those capacity concerns,” he said.