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L.A. Coroner's Cremation Of Poor And Unclaimed Increased In 2009

The Los Angeles County coroner's office cremated more bodies that were unclaimed or had indigent families than it did last year. With nine days in the year left, the number of cremations at the coroner's office for the poor and unclaimed was put at 720 versus 708 last year, according to Capt. John Kades.

The coroner's office also takes care of local indigent burials for veterans who are entitled to be laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery. Including those burials, the coroner handled 820 bodies of the poor and unclaimed in 2009 versus 797 last year, Kades tells the Weekly. The office handles the veterans' bodies at a loss, although the federal government does give it money for the service.

The "lion's share" of the 820 were bodies were connected to families who couldn't or didn't want to pay for private burials, Kades said. The number of unclaimed bodies -- cases where next of kin could not be found -- is at 196.

"That number continues to decrease every year," Kades said, "because we're more sophisticated about finding family."

The increase in poor, indigent and unclaimed cases, however, has put a strain on the coroner's funds, Kades said. He blames some of the increase on the county morgue, which he says hasn't accepted as many of those bodies from the coroner as it has in the past as a result of budget cuts there.

"You read about other coroners overflowing with bodies," Kades says. "We're not overflowing, but it's having an impact on the coffers."