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7 unidentified people in St. Louis morgue, staff need help finding their families

St. Louis Medical Examiner's Office now houses the remains of seven unidentified people. Tattoos might help identify at least one of them

Christine Byers (KSDK)

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Published: 6:04 AM CDT October 28, 2021
Updated: 10:59 PM CDT October 28, 2021

Each of the seven souls whose bodies remain unidentified at the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office has a story.

Each one is a mystery—for now. Each one has clues.

In the case of the remains of a man barge workers discovered along the Mississippi River 16 months ago, it’s partial tattoos.

Together, the seven cases represent the highest number of unidentified bodies those from the St. Louis City Medical Examiner’s Office—including veteran Tara Rick—can ever remember having at one time.

“I'm unable to really say why the number has increased, but it has definitely increased over the past five years,” said Rick, a 22-year employee who is now the director of operations. “It's very taxing on our staff because they are very passionate and they want these cases to have resolution.”

Rick is hoping help from the public, a local tattoo artist and the determination of her staff could solve at least one of the mysteries.

“And the longer time goes by, it can seem less likely that we'll get these individuals identified. So that's why I'm asking for the public's help.”

About 4,400 unidentified bodies are found each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons database.

The issue is adding detective work to the long list of skills forensic scientists have at the morgue.

Kelly Nicholson is among the first to look for clues that could help identify remains, including those found along the riverbank that day in June 2020. She’s the Chief Investigator for the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office.

“It's a lot,” she said. “It's hard to know that they're somebody’s, somebody.

“We try to take care of them and do the best that we can and find out who they are and find out what happened to them. We're the voice for the decedents. We're trying to figure out what happened, what's their last story.”

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