Morgue Conditions Under Fire After Graphic Video

Employee's Video Shows Open Body Bags, Bodily Fluids

Warning: The video associated with this story contains graphic images from inside the Marion County morgue.

A graphic video showing badly decomposed bodies and exposed limbs has some questioning the conditions inside the Marion County morgue.

An employee at the facility sent RTV6 a 60-second video showing the inside of the refrigerated storage vault at the morgue.

In an accompanying letter, the anonymous employee said that some bodies have been at the morgue for more than a year, and that blood and bodily fluids have leaked onto the floor, making for unsafe and unsanitary working conditions.

"It smells really bad, and we have to work with the look of rotting bodies and the smell of rotting flesh every day," the employee wrote. "It is very disrespectful to the deceased."

RTV6's Jack Rinehart showed the video to John Linehan, who worked at the morgue for 20 years, including a number of years as chief deputy coroner.

"It's no wonder people would complain about the smell or the sight," he said. "Some of the bags are open. There are body parts that are exposed through the bags. It would be horrible to work under those conditions."

RTV6 showed Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew the video, which the employee said was taken in December.

Ballew stressed that the nature of the job can be difficult at times, but maintained that the vault is cleaned every day and that the morgue is kept to standards of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

"We don't know when that blood and body fluid was leaking onto the floor. That's one issue," Ballew said. "(Regarding the complaint) it smells very bad, well we do have decomposed bodies that we deal with every day."

Ballew acknowledged that at least two bodies have been stored at the morgue for longer than a year. One is an unidentified John Doe and the other has not been claimed by next of kin.

But Ballew said her staff has limited options with what can be done with the deceased in those cases.

"That would be heartless to say, 'If you don't get this body out of here, we're going to cremate this body,'" she said. "No, we can't do that."

In 2006, an Indianapolis man who had been reported missing was identified at the morgue but cremated before the family was notified that he had died. The coroner's office said at the time that attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful.

Regarding the recent morgue video, Linehan said he believes the exposed, decomposing bodies are a health hazard and disrespectful to the dead.

"Whoever wrote that letter was right. There's rotting flesh that's visible here. The smell must be horrendous," he said. "To have them laying out and exposed not only seems to me to be a health hazard to those who work there, it's just not being respectful."

Linehan was fired from the coroner's office in 2005. Linehan, who is white, filed a lawsuit against then-Coroner Dr. Kenneth Ackles, who is black, claiming his termination was based solely on race. A federal appeals court ruled in Linehan's favor and awarded him a $280,000 settlement.

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