A former medical examiner crudely preserved brains, hearts, and lungs from about 100 people in plastic food containers found inside a storage unit in Florida, authorities said yesterday. A man who bought the contents of the unit at auction last week in Pensacola made the discovery after being overpowered by a strange smell. Investigators found formaldehyde leaking from a drink cup that was holding a heart, says the director of the Pensacola Medical Examiner's Office. "How horrible it is for the families of these deceased to think that someone's loved one's organs are basically rotting away in a storage unit somewhere," he said.
The unit had been rented by Dr. Michael Berkland, who worked at the ME's office from 1997 until 2003, when he was fired for not completing autopsy reports. Officials said he was also performing private autopsies; it was not clear yet whether any of the body parts came from his work with the office. Berkland had been fired as a contract medical examiner in 1996 in Missouri, in a dispute over his caseload and autopsy reports. His doctor's license was ultimately revoked there. He has not yet been charged.