Andrew Dys

Unclaimed dead? York County coroner has cremated ashes, money, jewelry, even TVs

Brittany Keane keeps the dead – and their money, their jewelry, even their television sets.

Everything that belonged to 77 people who have died in York County since the 1980s, whose families never claimed the person’s possessions – or the person.

Men and women as old as 85. Younger people whose lives ended abruptly in violence or despair. A baby who lived just three months.

Homeless men who lived desperate lives of survival, until life ended on cold railroad tracks. Victims of crimes, including a woman who was killed by her own son in 2013.

The people span ethnicity and race, but they share the same thing – nobody claimed their remains, their stuff or both after they came into possession of the York County Coroner’s Office.

“We have many sets of cremains here – the bodies of people who were never picked up,” said Keane, the deputy coroner in charge of the evidence storage. “Every case here was at one time a life.”

Over years, decades in many cases, the ashes of cremated people or the items at the scene of death or in a home at the time of death were never picked up by family. Some were indigent – poor and alone – but others had families who just decided that they wanted nothing from the death.

Those who work in the coroner’s office hope memories have just faded and that many, if not all, eventually will be claimed.

Keane showed earrings, wallets and a jewelry box. She pointed to stacks of plastic boxes – dozens – filled with ashes. The office doesn’t have the room to store human remains for decades, so unclaimed bodies are cremated.

Inside each box are the remains of somebody who laughed and loved, learned and wept, and, eventually, died.

“All of these items together are part of who that person was,” Keane said. “They mattered. They still matter to us.”

Within the envelopes and boxes are several cases with photos of people in life, driver’s licenses, identifications that show where the person worked or who he or she was in life. For some, the only possessions are an old TV set, a wooden jewelry box or some fake diamond earrings worn as her heart shuddered to an end.

Coroner Sabrina Gast, first elected in 2006, has made several improvements to the office aimed at making service to bereaved families more efficient and helpful.

Keane and others are meticulous in dealing with the cremains and possessions of the dead. Anyone who comes in to claim someone’s effects must show proof that they are the legal next-of-kin.

Coroners, who are often charged with notifying families of the death of a loved one, know that emotions can run high – even years later.

“Our goal is simple,” Keane said. “Find the families and reunite those families with their loved ones.”

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065

Did you know these people?

Here are the 77 people whose cremains, personal effects or both are unclaimed, in possession of the York County Coroner’s Office, with dates of birth and death:

Louis Agurs (10/12/1933-12/14/2011)

David Alexander (5/26/1953-10/5/2006)

James Alexander (12/16/1922-2/8/1988)

Dean Bainard (9/11/1940-4/24/2001)

Robert Bare (1/1/1929-10/7/1993)

Earl Barrett (9/25/1954-4/3/2012)

Virginia Blackman (9/11/1940-1/21/2007)

Reece Blakeney (9/8/1943-10/18/1998)

Franklin Blankenship (Unknown birth date-5/10/2010)

Lamar Bowman (2/12/1989-6/5/2009)

Alverta Boyd (1/25/1945-6/6/1990)

Thomas Byington (12/23/1982-4/24/2001)

Tony Carter (8/2/1964-3/25/2010)

Tracy Cates (7/26/1970-6/17/2013)

Anderson Cherry (5/12/1947-2/24/1996)

Donnie Cook (9/23/1984-9/29/2010)

Dennis Cooperhaver (5/18/1968-6/9/2007)

James Crowder (3/8/1945-10/13/2011)

Ulirica Davis (7/1/1971-12/12/1993)

Kristy Farley (2/20/1964-5/9/2008)

Harold Fields (11/19/1934-5/15/2011)

Matthew Filer (10/2/1981-12/12/2014)

Adolfo Govea (7/16/1976-3/19/2013)

Lisa Greagor (8/13/1973-4/3/2008)

Sandra Grose (10/30/1947-10/19/2013)

Kevin Hairston (8/23/1986-9/7/2013)

Johnny Harris (12/24/1964-7/23/2006)

William Hawks Sr. (3/22/1956-6/7/2010)

James Henson (12/20/1947-8/1/2013)

William Homan (6/11/1920-1/1/2011)

Simon Johnson (2/24/1962-8/20/2015)

John Jones (2/22/1958-10/15/2007)

William Jones (Unknown birth date-1/31/2009)

Kylie Keel (5/8/2008-8/17/2008)

Gary Keleman (3/25/1961-8/13/1995)

Brittany Kitzmiller (11/18/1985-8/12/2012)

John Koehler (6/9/1942-3/26/2013)

Joey Langley (11/9/1917-3/2/2009)

Robert Lesperance (4/18/1921-12/29/2006)

Tyrone Lowery (4/16/1961-10/16/2012)

Rene Loyola (5/12/1988-1/31/2009)

Melvin McCay (10/4/1962-8/31/2002)

Fred McClure (2/8/1960-6/8/2014)

Lee McClurkin (8/21/1973-2/29/2012)

Reginald McCullough (1/22/1962-1/17/2010)

Jennifer McLear (9/25/1953-8/20/1995)

Michael McNerny (11/13/1945-11/19/2013)

Adrian Mitchell (8/4/1983-8/23/1996)

Detrez Mix (7/13/1995-7/22/2011)

Ralph Montgomery (5/19/1954-11/20/2014)

Robert Morrison (4/24/1931-1/19/2007)

David Murray (7/17/1954-5/17/2010)

Frank Nagy (7/4/1957-10/13/2010)

Victor Nairn (3/4/1955-10/27/2010)

Priscilla Neely (2/7/1969-6/2/2013)

Megan Nelson (3/20/1980-11/21/1997)

Orville Owens (8/24/1954-9/30/1994)

Gabriel Palacio (5/4/2013-8/11/2013)

Michael Patton (5/5/1960-10/18/2013)

Franklin Paugh (2/18/1939-6/14/2006)

Alla Paxton (7/13/1925-5/27/2007)

Mayrno Perez (3/29/1993-11/28/2011)

Justin Ramo (2/7/1988-3/10/2015)

Jeffery Rhodes (4/18/1979-2/15/2008)

Kelly Rohn (6/24/1958-9/4/2012)

Corinthian Sanders (6/14/1989-10/16/2005)

Don Sexton (8/19/1949-9/21/2009)

Douglas Shaver (1/24/1955-4/25/2014)

Gordana Stefanodich (6/20/1936-6/12/2011)

Miranda Stillinger (10/19/1974-6/5/2013)

Russell Stutzman (5/24/1978-3/16/2015)

Johnathan David Taylor (9/12/1989-5/10/2015)

Robert Thrash (8/26/1952-1/23/2005)

Jason Wade (9/4/1975-5/20/2013)

John Walker (11/22/1934-10/18/1998)

Tammy Watson (5/13/1974-1/28/1996)

Daniel Williams (6/16/1969-10/5/2006)

What to do

If you believe one of these people was related to you and you want to claim remains and effects, go to the York County Coroner’s Office, 933 Heckle Blvd., Rock Hill, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays. Bring documentation establishing that you are the person’s next-of-kin. Or call the coroner’s office at 803-909-8400. No information will be given out over the phone.