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Burial planned for 1,440 unclaimed bodies in L.A. County

December 8, 2010 | 10:23 am

In a somber annual rite, Los Angeles County officials will bury the remains Wednesday of 1,440 unclaimed bodies at a Boyle Heights cemetery.

The county is required to keep the bodies at the coroner's office for two years. After that, they are cremated and the ashes placed into individual bags, said Cheryl Burnett, an aide to County Supervisor Don Knabe.

Late each year, the sacks are interred in a common grave, she said. This year, a Roman Catholic priest will hold a service at the gravesite at Los Angeles County Crematorium Cemetery, Burnett said. Various clergy rotate the duty, she said.

 Bodies go unclaimed for a variety of reasons, officials said.

"A lot of these people are poor or homeless, or their families can't afford to bury them,'' Burnett said. "It’s very sad. This is an opportunity to give them a dignified burial."

Knabe requested a moment of silence at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting to akcknowledge the imminent burial of the unclaimed bodies, Burnett said.

Common graves, also called "pauper's graves," have been used to bury the poor and unclaimed for centuries. The 1984 hit movie "Amadeus" depicted the pauper's burial in Vienna of one of the world's most beloved composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

The bodies being interred Wednesday came to the county coroner's office in 2008. The coroner's website has a list of the names of 5,015 dead who remain unclaimed.

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-- Catherine Saillant

 

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