Push to exhume bodies in King County

Washington’s state forensic anthropologist would like to unearth a mystery in King County.

There are 41 bodies that remain unidentified and some Washington leaders would like to exhume some of them.

"I would love at some point to get some of those individuals out of the ground. It's on my wish list,” Dr. Kathy Taylor, Washington State Forensic Anthropologist, told KIRO 7 last year.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office is looking for the public’s help in identifying some bodies that were buried before the advent of DNA.

Cloyd Steiger leads the cold case unit for the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

He said he supports the idea of exhuming the bodies.

“I absolutely do. It's a priority because there's no reason not to. You could never have done any of this just a few years ago and they have this backlog of unidentified remains. Let's start getting to work and do it. Again, it's not that much money per person," said Steiger.

The cost for a basic DNA profile, according to Steiger, is about $1,500.

Washington ranks fourth in the number of open missing person’s cases.

Families often wonder whether some of their bodies have already been found.

“I think it's just good humanity to make sure we take care of people who are dead,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

With so many needs in King County, Lambert said, identifying remains isn’t a budget priority for everyone.

“That is exactly true. That is some of the comments that have been made in the past,” said Lambert.

As DNA technology improves, Taylor said she believes answers are within our reach. "The unidentified situation in this country is often referred to as our ‘silent mass disaster’ because we have so many unidentifieds. At any given time, the number's usually quoted around 40,000 in this country," said Taylor.

In addition to bringing some answers for families, Steiger said he believes DNA testing could help connect homicide cases to other crimes.

"The worst part of having a missing family member is not knowing what happened. Everybody deserves to be identified when your body is found," said Steiger.

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