Unclaimed bodies costing taxpayers more than $100K a year

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Losing a loved one is a difficult situation mentally and emotionally but also financially. Channel 9 has learned taxpayers spent more than $100,000 last year to bury or cremate unclaimed bodies.

Channel 9's Mario Boone found many families don't claim the body of a loved one, because they can't afford the costs of a funeral.

On Thursday, a pedestrian was attempting to cross busy East Colonial Avenue outside the crosswalk when he was struck and killed. The man had no identification and was possibly homeless, which means his body could wind up among the hundreds of unclaimed dead people Orange County has to bury or cremate.

"From the Medical Examiner's Office, they do release the body to us if no one has claimed it," said Dianne Arnold of the Orange County burial program.

Arnold said the number of unclaimed bodies seems to be on the rise.

 "Fewer families are actually able to claim the bodies, which is why we've seen an increase," she said.

There is a nondescript Garden of Remembrance at a local cemetery where the indigent and unclaimed bodies are brought for burial.

Last year, taxpayers footed the bill to bury or cremate 382 bodies, which cost about $150,000, Arnold said.

The previous year, 365 bodies were unclaimed, costing taxpayers $140,000.

No officials could say exactly why the numbers are going up but a downturn in the economy and rising funeral costs could be part of the problem, county officials said.

All Florida counties are mandated by the state to provide burial or cremation services to unclaimed bodies.