JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — Authorities announced Thursday that thousands of fetuses were being stacked inside a now-dead abortion doctor’s garage for at least 17 years.
The case will now be handed over to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.
As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, Will County Sheriff’s detectives also talked for the first time Thursday about what it was like to find those remains.
Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who once ran three abortion clinics in Indiana, died earlier this month.
The central question of why the doctor stockpiled the fetuses remains a mystery.
But how he did it, and when the abortions occurred, was finally out in the open on Thursday. Grizzled investigators who don’t get surprised easily say they were blown away by what they found.
“So I can tell you that 31 years I’ve been doing this job, I’ve never seen anything like this, ever,” said Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley. “It is a strange, you know, it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things.”
An attorney for the Klopfer family contacted the coroner last Thursday, after they found what appears to be fetal remains while going through his property in southwest suburban Crete Township.
Kevin Bolger, a criminal defense attorney representing Klopfer’s wife, said the family never knew about the remains until last week. He said they don’t know why the remains were being kept on the property or where they were stored.
The strange, strange scene inside the cluttered old garage in Crete Township included exactly 70 cardboard boxes containing 2,246 fetal remains. They were individually packaged, many with paperwork with dates on them.
And all remains were kept in individualized bags using the chemical formalin to preserve them.
Kelley said 50 detectives and personnel went through the large property and had to go through hundreds of boxes to be sure all of the remains had been found.
Investigators said the fetuses were from surgeries performed between 2000 and 2002 – when Klopfer was still licensed and still running three Indiana clinics.
It was unclear why he did not use traditional means of disposing the medical waste.
Authorities said there is no evidence medical procedures were ever performed on Klopfer’s property.
As CBS 2 reported exclusively on Wednesday night, police said were going to search Klopfer’s buildings in Indiana. On Thursday, they did so.
So far, no additional remains have been found. And Indiana is the state where this investigation goes from here.
At one time, Klopfer had three abortion clinics in Indiana – in Gary, Fort Wayne and South Bend. Authorities said the remains found were from 2000 to 2002, which coincides with when Klopfer maintained the clinics in Indiana.
Arrangements are being made to transfer the the remains to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office as authorities say the investigation has concluded in Illinois, saying there is “no further criminal inquiry here.”
Will County said there is no evidence of any accomplices to investigate, and the chief suspect can’t be charged because he is now dead.
“If Mr. Klopfer did something wrong, it’s irrelevant at this point because he can’t be prosecuted,” said Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow. “So what we’re looking for is to find out; to work with Indiana authorities to find out if there’s more.”
Glasgow said it seems Klopfer failed to follow Indiana state law regarding disposal of the remains and filing proper paperwork. But police said there is no evidence of Dr. Klopfer profiting from the remains in any way.
Authorities would not speculate on what Klopfer’s motivation for keeping the remains was.
He said the only prosecution that “could potentially come of this” would be related to others involved. For example if it was found one of the abortions was performed on a 13-year-old, the person who impregnated her could be charged with statutory rape after DNA testing.
Authorities also said HIPAA prevents them from sharing information about any labeling of the remains, but anyone who had an abortion performed by Klopfer who wants to come forward for more information can contact the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.