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Cook County Dead Body Photos: Medical Examiner Hopes New Web Feature Helps Identify Bodies

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The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office began posting photos and descriptions of unidentified bodies on its website Wednesday.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office began posting photos and descriptions of unidentified bodies on its website Wednesday.

While it might make some squeamish, officials in the Cook County Medical Examiner's office hopes a new online feature rolled out Wednesday will help some families find closure.

March 6 marks the first day the Medical Examiner's office began posting information — which in some cases includes graphic photos — about unidentified bodies in the county morgue on its website, reports CBS Chicago.

Speaking to DNAinfo Chicago about the new list, to be updated biweekly, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said the feature will “make it easier for families to identify a missing loved one.”

"It is a useful tool when all other means to identify these remains have failed," Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle added, according to NBC Chicago.

The Tribune reports the office has already been working with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System's website for a few months; since then, spokeswoman Mary Paleologos told the Tribune the body of a Michigan woman who had been found dead on the North Side has been identified.

The information in the site's "Unidentified Persons" section lists free, open data on details like the location where a body was found and a physical description of the person, including clothes, birthmarks, tattoos or height. Cina told the Tribune in the cases that have photos attached, images are stored in a way "to deter people from downloading them."

Images are watermarked by the Medical Examiner's office and to see an image, viewers must click through a message reading:

"Please be advised of the potentially graphic nature of the images that you are linking to. They are from the autopsies of unidentified persons and some may be in a somewhat decomposed or damaged state."

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are roughly 20 unclaimed bodies at the morgue, in addition to nine unidentified bodies, according to the office's website.

Other medical examiner's offices -- including the Milwaukee County office and Maricopa County office (in Arizona) also post photos of unidentified bodies on their websites.

Preckwinkle replaced former Chief Medical Examiner Nancy Jones after several families looking to claim loved ones complained the morgue turned them away when in fact the bodies where there — stacked on top of one another — all along.

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