Local News


Thousands of unclaimed body remains at cemetery

Posted at 11:47 AM, Nov 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-25 14:47:26-05
Hundreds of people die every year in Clark County and never have their remains claimed.
Action News Reporter Gina Lazara learned why the numbers are growing and how much you, the taxpayer, are paying to lay the dead and dismissed to rest.
Alone in life, alone in death. People dying in Clark County with not a single soul by their side.
When your loved one passes away, you have the option to bury them in the ground or keep them in personalized crypts.
But thousands in our community are unclaimed right now and they're kept in unmarked crypt spaces. Some, because their families couldn't afford to claim them; others, because they just don't care.
Clark County now averages about 1,200 unclaimed bodies a year. That's a 50% increase from what the county was used to back in most of the 2000's.
Jordan Amos from La Paloma Funeral Home handles the remains and their relatives.
"There are people who are blunt and they'll just tell us right up at the front that they don't want to claim that person," said Amos.
The private cremation cost for families can be anywhere between $300 and $2,600. Clark County's Social Services Director says that's the reason for the spike in unclaimed remains.
He says another reason is there are just more people living and dying here.
"You don't think human morale or people just not caring is any bit of a factor to this?" asked Action News Reporter Gina Lazara.
"Not at all. I don't believe there is a factor of people not caring that goes into family members winding up in our service array," said Clark County's Social Services Director Tim Burch.
With more remains going unclaimed, Amos says he's heard from the county about the possibility of running out of crypt space and getting a little more creative with the remains.
"It {the remains} could go in the water? In Lake Mead?" asked Action News Reporter Gina Lazara.
"Yeah. It's mostly in a specific park type of area. Not where most folks are at. It's to be more discrete," said Jordan Amos.
"I actually heard the possibility of them being scattered over Lake Mead. Have you heard that?" asked the reporter.
"No, no. As a department, the funeral homes do have a responsibility to hold onto remains for a certain period of time in case someone comes around later and discovers their loved one so they can claim those ashes. When that period of time lapses, then the county takes responsibility for those remains and we store them in crypts. And when we run out of crypt space, we buy more crypts. And we make sure we keep those remains available in case someone wanted to claim them," said Burch.
But nearly all will go unclaimed and forgotten as taxpayers pick up the annual $600,000 tab.