Ward Room
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Suit Filed in Case of Body Lost in Morgue

Carmelita Johnson's was in the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, unidentified, for more than a year

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Carmelita Johnson's body was found three months after she went missing, but it stayed in the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office for more than a year because nobody knew who she was.

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The family of a woman whose body went missing for 14 months in the Cook County morgue filed a lawsuit Friday alleging the body was mishandled.

Carmelita Johnson's body was found three months after she went missing in Jan. 2010, but it stayed in the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office for more than a year because nobody knew who she was.

"If the medical examiner would have done her part we could have had some closure," Johnson's daughter, Leslie Jackson, said Friday. "We could have had some answers. Now we are just left with a broken heart and unanswered questions.”

Jackson said the family was moved to take action after several published reports that bodies had been piling up for weeks.

The lawsuit is the latest problem for the beleaguered facility, which staffers admit was over capacity until earlier this year.

Cleaning up the situation at the morgue won't be easy, county officials say, because officials are having difficulty finding quality hires. There are more than 19 job openings at the ME's office, from administration to pathology.

Ministers have protested the treatment of the dead, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle last week promised a complete overhaul of the office.

Details of the lawsuit were not disclosed.

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