- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The office of the Ada County coroner has 52 occupants that don’t belong there: the unclaimed or abandoned ashes of men and women who have died in the county.

The Idaho Statesman reports (https://bit.ly/1kSmP7f ) that Coroner Dotti Owens says human remains don’t belong in an office closet, and she is working to right the problem.

“They should be respectfully interred somewhere. They’re the ashes of human beings. They shouldn’t be sitting in a county office,” Owens said.

The unclaimed remains are from when the deceased’s next-of-kin cannot be found. Abandoned cremains are when the deceased’s next-of-kin has not stepped in to take care of the body and pay for cremation.

In both cases, the county pays about $800 to cremate the remains.

Owns has contacted the county’s legal advisers about abandoned cremains. She was told there is no law governing cremains, abandoned or claimed out of state that requires family members to reimburse the county.

“This is a loophole in the system,” said Owens. “There’s nothing in our state statutes, nothing in our city ordinance that says a family has to reimburse us for part or all of the cremation expense.”

Owens said Ada County isn’t the only coroner’s office left with unwanted cremains. In Twin Falls County, 13 boxes of cremains are waiting in an office.

“It’s something not very many people know about. Excuse the pun, but the cremains have been put on the back shelf,” said Coroner Gene Turley. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Turley said Twin Falls is also stuck with the bill when families don’t pay.

Owens has found that some states, including Washington, have laws to protect counties. Coroners require families to reimburse at least half the cost of cremaition to claim remains. She has presented her information to the Ada County Board of Commissioners in hopes of getting similar legislation.

For the unclaimed, the Ada County commissioners are currently deciding whether to purchase a crypt for $9,000. The crypt could house unclaimed cremains, but coroner staff would still be able to retrieve them if a family member came forward.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com

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