- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) — Officials in Pennsylvania are investigating the discovery of some 400 unborn children found in a garage that once belonged to a funeral home director under contract with a local hospital to cremate them. Most of the them were preserved in embalming fluid inside plastic containers that were labeled, and officials plan to notify the hospital patients involved, once all the remains have been identified, officials said. The unborn children were discovered in McKeesport last Friday by a relative of the garage’s former owner. The former owner ran a funeral home, now closed, that contracted with Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh to cremate aborted or miscarried fetuses. The funeral home director, Robert Winston Jr., is cooperating with police and is not charged with any offense, according to his attorney, James Ecker. Officials declined to speculate why Mr. Winston kept the unborn children rather than dispose of them. Most of the them were less than 16 weeks old, the point below which an unborn child is treated as a “surgical specimen” and is not legally required to be reported to the police or coroner, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, coroner for Allegheny County. At 16 weeks or more, an unborn child is considered a body and subject to autopsy to determine the cause of death, he said. The unborn children date from 1999 to 2002, he said. “We can appreciate the emotional trauma these families have suffered, and we want to be able to say accurately and honestly what we have,” Dr. Wecht said. The identification process should be complete by next week, he said. In some cases, Dr. Wecht said some families may choose to bury the unborn children. A spokeswoman for Allegheny County police said the department would make no comment until the coroner’s investigation was complete. Three years ago, more than 300 bodies meant for cremation were discovered dumped in sheds, burial pits and nearby woods of a crematory in Noble, Ga. The crematory operator pleaded guilty to theft, fraud, abuse of a corpse and making a false statement and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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