Defenders investigations reveal mistakes in the Wayne County Morgue: When is enough enough?

University of Michigan Health System runs morgue

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. – When is enough enough? When will there be accountability? How long will taxpayers foot a $31 million bill for the 5-year contract for the University of Michigan Health System to run the Wayne County Morgue and allow mistake after mistake after mistake?

The deal between the morgue and University of Michigan Health System is up in September of 2022. It will be interesting to see if Wayne County Commissioners and taxpayers believe they are getting the service they expect and deserve.

Click here to view some of the investigations we’ve done over the past six months. I’ve exposed several issues at the morgue including; A paperwork problem; A lack of taking care of the deceased, allowing their bodies to decompose; A case where a mother found her daughter’s mouth full of maggots and could not do an open casket funeral; Bodies unidentified despite the person’s ID being near them; DNA results that took more than two years to get back; And an overall lack of respect for the victims’ families.

My investigation started with a tip in June involving a missing woman. I began asking questions and reporting wrongdoing by the morgue. As my stories began to air, more people came forward sharing their concerns and experiences with the Wayne County morgue. So many emails, phone calls and messages from families, I could hardly keep up responding to them all.

Who winds up in the morgue? It can be a variety of people who died in a variety of ways. There have been cases of crime, murder, car accidents, suspicious deaths. Even cases where families are searching for more clear answers and closure. All of these people and their families deserve answers as well as respect.

Read: Medical examiner questioned after investigation reveals missing woman’s body sat in Wayne County Morgue for 7 months

My latest investigation into the case of William Hagen is heartbreaking. His body was found with a bullet to the head, his ID near him, but the morgue wanted to do DNA tests.

While the family waited for more than two years for that DNA, the Wayne County Morgue released Hagen’s body and allowed him to be cremated without telling the family. My heart breaks for the Hagen family -- for their loss and for how they were treated by the system.

When is enough enough?


Click here to view previous reports.


Oh, and if you think I’m done -- I’m not. Below is a teaser for the next Wayne County Morgue story I’m working on -- which will be airing in February. It’s just 30 seconds long. Worth watching.

The Local 4 Defenders have exposed several issues at the Wayne County Morgue and the investigation isn't over yet.

About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.