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Body parts found in auctioned Florida storage unit

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:04 PM EDT, Thu August 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police are trying to determine whether a crime was committed
  • The unit belonged to a former associate medical examiner
  • The contents were sold at auction last week
  • The body parts were stored in formaldehyde in various containers

(CNN) -- For $900, the winning bid at a Pensacola storage auction got the contents of Unit B12 -- and a police investigation.

Police say body parts belonging to more than 100 people were found stored in formaldehyde inside the unit, in plastic containers, specimen cups, trash bags and even a 32-ounce Styrofoam cup from a convenience store. Some of the containers had cracked and leaked, police said.

The discovery was reported to police Friday after the purchaser of the unit began going through the items, said George Klages, manager of Uncle Bob's Storage.

Investigators know the unit was rented by Michael Berkland, a former associate medical examiner, but they're now trying to figure out if a crime was committed, said Capt. David Alexander of the Pensacola Police Department.

He said authorities have made some attempts to reach Berkland, who worked for the Medical Examiner's Office between 1997 and May 2003, when he was fired for failing to complete autopsy reports in a timely manner.

Berkland, who is no longer licensed in Florida, was also at one point a private pathologist, Alexander said. Families would sometimes contact him for second opinions about autopsy decisions that had been rendered, he said.

Police said Klages told them Berkland rented the unit from April 8, 2009, until it was auctioned August 22. He said Berkland was late on rental payments several times during the lease but usually paid right before the unit contents were to be auctioned.

The storage unit also contained office furniture and other property.

Police say the remains are believed to be from autopsies Berkland did between 1997 and 2007 at funeral homes in Pensacola, Tallahassee, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City. Some of the containers had labels with names and autopsy dates but others did not.

The remains are now with the Medical Examiner's Office. The Pensacola Police Department said it is not releasing the inventory because some of the decedent families may not be aware of the investigation.

The State Attorney's Office and Medical Examiner's Officer are also taking part in the investigation.

Blood found on comforter in Washington state storage unit

CNN's Elwyn Lopez contributed to this report.

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