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Monday, November 29, 2010

No Family Turns Up For Mission Murder Victim. How Long Will City Wait?

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 12:15 PM

click to enlarge mystery_man.jpg

Ten days after he was shot to death on Mission and 17th, a 60ish murder victim lies unidentified.

Actually, the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office knows full well who he is. But his name is being kept hush hush because the city has been unable to track down any of his relatives. So he remains "John Doe No. 78."

But for how long? Well, the city has procedures for this sort of thing.

Those who die and fall into the care of the Medical Examiner's office remain John or Jane Does for 30 calendar days while due diligence is undertaken so relatives don't first learn of the death via the newspaper.

After that time, however, the name is released to the public -- meaning this murder victim will likely be identified by mid-December.

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Once the family has been notified, the clock starts ticking. Spouses have 10 days and other relatives seven to "make arrangements" before an "abandonment" situation kicks in. At that point, the city may move forward in disposing of the body in the manner it sees fit.

In San Francisco, indigent dead are cremated out-of-city and their ashes scattered at sea. Steve Gelman, the administrator for the medical examiner's office, notes that he holds onto the ashes for a full year prior to committing them to the bosom of the Pacific. Should the family of John Doe No. 78 not be contacted within 20-odd days, the paperwork for the cremation procedure will commence.

John Doe No. 78 is an outlier, it turns out. The ME's office strives to inform family members of a loved one's death within 24 hours 90 percent of the time -- and is currently doing so 95 percent of the time.

But JD No. 78 isn't a record-breaker, either. Gelman notes that one family called the office to confirm a man's death a full seven years after he drew his last breath.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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