The State Attorney’s Office is investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against a former associate medical examiner after human remains that belong to more than 100 individuals were found in a Pensacola storage unit.
The remains, including hearts, lungs, tissue samples and 10 brains, were found Friday in containers in a unit that had been rented by Michael Berkland at Uncle Bob’s Storage, 195 E. Fairfield Drive, officials said.
Medical Examiner Dr. Andi Minyard said the remains appear to be from private autopsies that Berkland performed. She said based on the remains’ labeling the autopsies were done between 1997 and 2007.
She said it appears the autopsies were done at local funeral homes and in Panama City.
The remains were found after the storage unit was sold during an auction. The buyer alerted a manager at Uncle Bob’s to what was in the unit, and the Pensacola Police Department was called, Minyard said.
“Florida tries to regulate things like improper storage of biomedical waste,” Minyard said. “Out of respect for the families as well, it’s a horrible thing to know that your uncle’s brain is setting in some storage shed that got sold at an auction.”
Berkland could not be reached Monday for comment. Uncle Bob’s Storage would not comment.
Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said the investigation will include his office meeting with the Police Department. He said his office also will contact the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency to see if any of the agencies’ regulations have been violated.
“As soon this storm situation is cleared out, we are going to sit down and go through this and determine what should be done next,” he said.
Florida does allow private autopsies, Minyard said, but in cases of suspicious deaths and homicides autopsies should be performed by her office.
Berkland worked for the Medical Examiner’s Office between 1997 to 2003. He was fired in May 2003 for keeping a large backlog of cases and failing to complete autopsy reports in a timely manner.