Police Discover Wrong Bodies While Looking for Unidentified Homicide Victims

Tiffany Meier
By Tiffany Meier
July 4, 2019USshare
Police Discover Wrong Bodies While Looking for Unidentified Homicide Victims
FBI agents search a field outside Detroit for the alleged remains of former Teamsters' union president Jimmy Hoffa in Michigan, on June 17, 2013. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Police in Detroit dug up the wrong bodies at a cemetery as part of an operation that was supposed to unearth unidentified homicide victims, according to a new report.

“There’s no explanation,” Detroit Police Deputy Chief Marlon Wilson said on Wednesday, July 3, according to WXYZ. “That’s why we had to do a search warrant for the records to try to identify the reason ourselves.”

Police exhumed seven bodies as part of the operation, but only one matched a homicide victim, authorities said.

As for the other six, “there is no indication that those bodies were related to any type of crime,” Wilson said.

“It’s extremely concerning,” he said, according to Detroit News.

Two months prior, the Detroit Police Department teamed up with the FBI as part of Operation UNITED (Unknown Names Identified Through Exhumation and DNA), whose goal was to connect the bodies buried in two cemeteries in Wayne County with past homicide victims.

“The goal of the operation is to extract DNA with the purpose of helping us identify victims of homicide,” Wilson said.

Many of the victims date back decades ago, going as far back as 1959.

“It’s concerning, very difficult but our members are dedicated and their goal is to try to bring closure to these homicide cases,” Wilson said, according to Fox 2 Detroit.

Wilson said the Detroit police had help from FBI scientists, who determined that the bodies did not match any of the cemeteries’ records.

“We were able to understand (that the bodies didn’t match) based on the description of the victims,” Wilson said, according to Detroit News. “The (FBI scientists) utilized their expertise, and six of the seven (bodies) weren’t the right ones.”

Authorities said they haven’t been able to match the bodies with DNA so far.

“It’s very difficult work, but our members are dedicated,” Wilson said. “It’s essential we identify these victims for the families, and so we can close these cases and move forward.”

Sources told WXYZ the police will return to the cemetery to find the other six homicide victims that they were originally after.

Some of the victims died of gunshot wounds, with the youngest being an infant who was only a day old and the oldest being a person who was 45, police said.

Authorities said the bodies of the unidentified homicide victims weren’t in their intended graves, which could be problematic for cemetery staff, according to Fox 2 Detroit.

Wilson said the cemetery could face administrative sanctions or even criminal charges, depending on what the Department Of Licensing And Regulatory (LARA) finds in their investigation.

A spokesperson for LARA released the following statement to WXYZ: “LARA currently has an open investigation regarding the establishment and I cannot comment further at this time.”

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