MUNCIE — When an 83-year-old Muncie man died two weeks before Christmas, no one cared.
Authorities called or went to his daughter's home as many as 20 times, trying to ask her to take possession of her father's remains. She declined to open her door or accept their phone calls.
In the meantime, the elderly man's body remained in the morgue at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital for weeks, so long that the Delaware County health officer declared it a biohazard, giving the county coroner the authority to work with the Center Township trustee's office to bury the man at taxpayer expense.
The people who deal with the disposition of the remains of the indigent and unwanted say it's a growing problem in Muncie. Fewer people have insurance or the money to pay for their own or a loved one's burial. More people are dying from drug overdoses or while estranged from their families.
Center Township Trustee Kay Walker said her office has dealt with about a dozen of what used to be called "pauper" burials so far this year. Hand in hand with that number is the number of people who die with no next of kin, or at least none willing to take responsibility.
"Unclaimed bodies are becoming a bigger problem for us," Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn said.