SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Burying a loved one is hard enough for anyone, but one mother says identifying her daughter’s body was even more traumatic. She is now speaking out about how the Schuylkill County Coroner’s office handled the situation.
“Ever since then, it’s been the worst night I’ve ever had to deal with,” Margaret Gradwell said.
Inside a trailer, the Schuylkill County Coroner’s office keeps the bodies of those who have passed. Margaret Gradwell says she was not prepared for the sight she saw when she had to identify her 27-year-old daughter Sierra who died in October.
“I was just trying to focus on my daughter. Talking to my daughter. When I looked around I saw glass jars that had body parts in them,” Gradwell said.
When Eyewitness News took her concerns to John Mika, one of the deputies at the coroner’s office, he said that there could have been specimens, which is common to see in any lab. When asked if the trailers ever looked in a state that would not be appropriate for a family to see, he replied: “No. I mean, what you see is what you get. We keep the morgue clean and sanitary all the time.”
Mika tells Eyewitness News the morgue used to be in the local hospital. But that ended when their contract ended in 2012. The coroner’s office replaced it with the current mobile facility that sits behind the Simon Kramer Institue in New Philadelphia, which is run by the coroner, Dr. David Moylan.
The mobile facility holds about three to four decedents and that is where autopsies are performed. There is an overflow refrigerated facility that can hold about seven to eight decedents.
Mika defends the trailers saying the military and government use the same type of facilities in the same manner.
“I am going to work in a place and if something was inappropriate or something wasn’t respectful, I wouldn’t stand for that,” Mika said.
Gradwell however says no one should have to see what she saw as she identified her daughter.
“She is still a human being. And I feel she should have been treated with respect and dignity even though she was gone. It’s just something I can’t get out of my mind,” Gradwell said.
Eyewitness News also spoke to another deputy coroner who is running against the current coroner in the coming election. Eyewitness News is working to get an interview with the current coroner, Dr. David Moylan and will bring that part of the story to you when we get it.