The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office on Wednesday launched an expanded version of its website to include a new way for families to locate missing loved ones.
The site now points to a listing of unidentified bodies as well as details of each person, such as clothing, hair color and tattoos. In some cases, photos of the deceased are posted. The images are preceded by a disclaimer that advises of their "potentially graphic nature."
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said the expanded site is invaluable for relatives attempting to track down a family member who disappeared. The list will be updated biweekly
"It is a useful tool when all other means to identify these remains have failed," Preckwinkle said. "Ultimately, if even one unidentified person is reunited with their family for final burial, it is worth all the efforts of our team.”
Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said the information is already posted on NamUs, a national database of missing persons. Cina said the office hopes Cook County residents will more readily check a local database for a loved one than a national website.
“Relatives often think to check the websites of large cities if they are attempting to track down a family member who has disappeared," Cina said. "That’s why it’s important for Cook County to provide site for families to access.”
Cina was chosen last summer to replace Dr. Nancy Jones, who stepped down July 31 as medical examiner. Preckwinkle said the website's expansion is part of the "ongoing initiative to modernize the Medical Examiner’s office and improve its efficiency and operation.”
A state report last year found the Cook County Morgue was operating under two dozen dangerous violations. Photos were leaked last January depicting hundreds of bodies stacked in coolers and even hallways at the morgue.
Several families stepped forward saying they had been unable to locate the remains of their loved ones, only to learn they had been in the morgue for weeks. Thirteen adults and 120 children and fetuses were buried at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery on Chicago's South Side last April.