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Price of unclaimed bodies at morgue weighs heavy on budgets

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HENRICO, Va. -- When families can't afford the cost of a funeral, or when no one is around to pay the cost, what happens?

Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade knows all about law enforcement, the ins and outs of running a jail.

But he's also had to oversee something he likely never dreamed about early on in his career, handling and disposing of bodies.

Specifically, people who pass away and no one comes forward to claim their bodies.

Wade he says he believes most people don't know the responsibility falls on the sheriff’s office.

Now he says the locality where the person resided is responsible for the tab.

Before, it was left up to the locality where the person died. Wade says it's costly.
And he says the biggest expense is the 85 bucks per day to store one body.

And typically more than $600 is spent to cremate them.

His budget last year stretched passed the $100,000 mark.

“It cost about $625 for the cremation last year (per each), cost us $103,000 to deal with 19 bodies.”

Wade says it's an unfunded mandate that can turn a sheriff’s office budget upside down. A cost that he says just comes with the territory

“The problem that exists is when people flat out refuse to take possession of the body leaving the county to do it,” he said.