The Linn County Medical Examiner's Office is hoping the public can help find a family member or friend of a man who died earlier this month.
County medical examiner Dr. Donald Linder said 66-year-old Wayne A. McVey died of natural causes on Feb. 7. He's been at the morgue ever since as the medical examiner's staff tries to track down a family member or friend.
"The medical examiner has to be the advocate for the dead," Linder said Thursday. "I would feel horrible if no one knew this guy died, if he just had nobody. It would be nice if any family or friend would come forward."
Unfortunately, cases like McVey's are becoming increasingly common, Linder said. The medical examiner estimates that approximately once a month his office has to take extra measures to track down the next of kin for someone who has died. Generally, those steps include entering the person's name in a search engine and contacting local police, jail, hospital or veteran's hospital staff. Linder will turn to the media in cases where those other measures are unsuccessful, he said.
"Hopefully...someone will read this and say, 'I remember this guy," Linder said.
While he has noticed an increase in cases involving difficulty finding the next of kin, Linder said he has not looked into why that might be occurring. He did say his office has a high success rate of tracking down someone who knew the deceased, even if it's a friend, rather than a family member.
In the event his office is unsuccessful in finding someone who knew McVey, Linder said he will have to get a judicial order to have the body cremated. The cremains will be sent to the state medical examiner's office, where they will be kept for a number of years in hopes that a family member comes forward.
Sometimes the deceased has the financial means to cover the costs of the cremation, but other times the county assumes the financial burden, Linder said. That cost is what sometimes keeps family members from stepping forward and claiming a body, he added.
"We're not asking anybody to pay," he said. "The county has a pauper's fund. We have funds allocated for special circumstances like this. I just want the family to know they are not responsible for the financial burden of the cremation."Linder said if someone does not come forward in the next few days, he will obtain a judicial order for the cremation on Monday.