There are unfortunate times when the next of kin or legal representative of a decedent cannot be located. Sadly, there are also times when the next of kin is unable or unwilling to claim the remains of the decedent. In these cases, the County assumes authority and takes custody of the remains. In most cases the remains will be cremated. If the decedent is unidentified, the remains will be buried.

The family of a person who was unclaimed at the time of their death can claim the remains at a later time. Many times brothers, sister, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren will discover that a relative was unclaimed in years past. The Coroner’s Office desires to reunite families with the remains of their deceased members. If you have any reason to think that you might have a deceased family member whose remains were unclaimed at the time of their death, you are encouraged to contact the Coroner’s Office. We will gladly review our records to see if, indeed, we have the remains.

The County will ask to be reimbursed for the cost of the cremation or burial. This question can be discussed with the Coroner. All efforts will be made to reunite your family.

The Coroner always employs diligent and extensive methods to identify every decedent in Grays Harbor County. Occasionally there are situations where the identification of a decedent cannot be made.

When an unidentified body is found, the investigation begins with a search of all personal belongings located with and around the body. The person or agency finding the decedent provides all known information. Residents in the area are canvassed. Law enforcement agencies are contacted. Several agencies maintain logs of missing persons and they are checked. Newspaper, radio and television reports are used to alert residents of the unidentified decedent. Avenues are established for anonymous information to be relayed to the proper agency. Forensic investigation of the body provides information about presumed age range, sex, race, dental work, blood type, hair and eye colors, glasses or contact lenses, and presumed weight and height. Manufacturers of body implants encode serial numbers or patients’ names on prosthetic devices and most body implants of various types. Once this information is recovered, the manufacturer can provide identifying information to the Coroner. DNA is certainly a successful method of identification. DNA identification requires that certain other facts and samples be available. The Coroner, along with other investigative governmental agencies, actively remain current on the latest in identification techniques.

If an identification cannot be made within a reasonable time, the body of the unidentified decedent is buried in a local cemetery. The hope is that at some point, identification of this decedent will be made and the next of kin will be able to claim the remains of their loved one.