Lake County coroner hopes to return property to death victims' families

2012-10-23T19:00:00Z 2012-10-23T20:57:06Z Lake County coroner hopes to return property to death victims' familiesBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
October 23, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The Lake County coroner's office is holding jewelry, a calling card, a pair of glasses and even a packet of suspected marijuana that belonged to nearly 100 deceased people.

Their deaths were the subject of investigations during the past 25 years, and Coroner Merrilee Frey said Tuesday she is making public her efforts to give the decedents' families one more opportunity to reclaim the property before it is auctioned off or destroyed.

She said her staff already has returned the accumulated effects of more than 120 death victims to family members since she took office five weeks ago. Staff members have been unable to find the owners of the remaining items, despite repeated attempts to do so.

Frey has asked Sheriff John Buncich and Treasurer John Petalas to help dispose of the items if no one claims them by year's end.

People wishing to reclaim property of deceased family members can contact the Lake County coroner's office at (219) 755-3266.

Frey said she already has turned over to the sheriff several rifles and handguns recovered in recent investigations.

"I understand they will be melted down," Frey said.

Other items include cigarettes and lighters, a cellphone, wallets and key rings. The items all belonged to people who died between 1987 and last week.

"These are very small items, but they could be important to the families," Chief Deputy Coroner David Pastrick said.

Lake County Police Chief Timothy Downs said his department will dispose of the suspected marijuana and any other items that cannot be sold at auction.

Lake County Treasurer John Petalas said any unclaimed cash taken directly from the deceased or proceeds from an auction would be put in the county's general fund to support county government's daily expenses.

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