(MILWAUKEE) — A Milwaukee medical examiner is using new media to identify forgotten victims in old, cold cases.
Mike Simley, a forensic investigator in Milwaukee County, Wisc., built and launched an online database of unidentified deceased bodies that have been in his morgue for up to 30 years, awaiting a family member or friend who can claim them as their own.
“I was just desperate to get people identified,” Simley said. “Everyone is born with an identity and deserves to die and be put to rest with the same thing, rather than as a Jane or John Doe.”
The database is filled with photos of the unnamed deceased that viewers can scroll through to see if they recognize any faces. The website even includes a section for unidentified infants and fetuses found abandoned and deceased. Many of the images, Simley acknowledged, are gruesome.
“I talked with the chief medical examiner here. We see this stuff on a daily basis, but people who don’t have to deal with death all the time. Obviously it would not be an easy thing for people to see, deceased individuals,” Simley said.
He created the website to have multiple warnings and disclaimers about the types of pictures featured.
“I structured this website so you have to jump through some hoops, and read a big warning about what types of pictures they are, and a description of why I’m doing this (before you see the photos).”
Simley said he doctored some photos, changing the color or fading some details, to make up for natural body decomposition and make it a little bit easier for the public to view.
He hopes that through his website and a national database of unidentified bodies and missing persons family members will recognize a defining characteristic of their relative and contact his office to arrange burial.
Simley said he knew of only one other jurisdiction that had a similar website — Clark County, Nev. — which had some success matching bodies with family members. The Milwaukee website has not yet had a match since its launch in mid-December, he said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio