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Coroner holds on to heads in boxes

Mislabeled parts seized at airport by Chad Day | June 13, 2010 at 4:19 a.m.

— Between 40 and 60 whole and partial human heads confiscated Wednesday at Little Rock National Airport, Adams Field, remained at the Pulaski County morgue Saturday.

The specimens, in three “rubber containers” and bound for a medical lab in Fort Worth, were taken to the morgue after a Southwest Airlines employee opened the totes because they were mislabeled and called police, Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper said Friday.

Camper said his office had inventoried the “medical specimens” but he didn’t know the exact number because he was out of the office on his way to southwest Arkansas to assist the Arkansas Department of Health in recovering flood victims. Camper didn’t deny that some of the “medical specimens” were whole and partial human heads.

The Fort Worth company, Medtronic Powered Surgical Solutions, had contacted his office but hadn’t yet supplied sufficient documentation that would allow him to release the medical specimens, Camper said. The containers listed a return address of JLS Consulting Group in Conway.

“I’ve not had any of the paperwork that I’ve requested in order for them to receive [the specimens],” Camper said.

“I want to be able to determine the legitimacy of it and to determine the amount that they said was going to be shipped is the amount that we have in custody,” he said, noting the containers were “poor packaging” to ship the specimens in.

A telephone message left for a Medtronic company spokesman Friday wasn’t returned. A message left for Janice Helpler, who is listed on the police report as a contact for JLS Consulting, wasn’t returned Friday.

The containers were opened and the heads uncovered Wednesday shortly before 11 p.m. after Randy Stroud of Southwest Airlines stopped deliveryman Alan Woods Jr. from shipping the totes via Southwest Airlines Air Freight, according to a Little Rock police report.

The containers, labeled merely as “biohazard,” were shipped from a private residence in the Brookfield Acres area of Conway, the report said.

Woods took the containers to the cargo office and Stroud stopped them because the containers weren’t marked explicitly with wording indicating what was inside, per Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the report said.

Woods told Stroud he had picked up the containers in Conway from a “residence at 2410 Brookfield [Drive] and did not know what was [inside],” the report said.

The containers’ shipping labels showed they were bound for Medtronic with a return address of JLS Consulting Group listed as the address on Brookfield Drive, the report said.

Per federal regulations, Stroud was required to open the containers and examine the contents because of the mislabeling. First, he found “a large red Bio Hazard bag in the first container ... [and then] several items wrapped in large absorbent pads, and upon further inspection, he found the human remains (heads),” the report said. The report didn’t say how the remains were preserved.

Stroud called police.

Detectives responded and contacted FAA officials who determined no rules had been violated, the report said. Sari Koshetz, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said her agency’s “role is to be sure that a shipment is not a security threat and we did that.”

Little Rock police spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said police determined the transaction was legitimate and concluded their investigation Wednesday.

The remains were then taken to the coroner’s office for storage where Camper confirmed Saturday they remained.

Arkansas, Pages 17 on 06/13/2010

Print Headline: Coroner holds on to heads in boxes


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