I’m working on a next of kin case for a man who died while incarcerated. He’s been dead since 2001 and nobody has located his next of kin. I wonder how long he’d been incarcerated without contact from someone who cared? I imagine he was discarded before he went to prison. I’d bet he grew up in poverty or in foster care. Early and/or chronic poverty or disrupted relationships adversely impacts brain development. It impedes positive and prosocial experiences. The individual’s intellectual and emotional development is forever impacted and depending on their resilience, genetic predispositon, and environment they may have far less free will than we like to imagine. If we can say they made a choice, we can discard them more easily. We don’t have to worry about what happens to those we consider the least worthy in our communities.
I’ve been looking for the sister of a deceased person. Because she married more than once and lives in a state where records are private for fifty years I kept hitting roadblocks. Today I spoke with a cousin in another state who hasn’t seen her in decades. But she went through her own deceased mother’s papers and found the married name and last address for her cousin, the sister of the deceased that I’ve been trying to locate. Do you save your (or your family member’s) old address books?
There are Medical Examiner’s offices whose attitude is, “Why are you bothering us asking about decedents whose kin we couldn’t find?” and then there are ME’s that call and say, “Deb, would you like to help us on another case?” Got one of the latter tonight.
One of the unclaimed decedent cases I’m working is a man who came to the U.S. during the Mariel boatlift. I haven’t enough information to know how he supported himself all these years but he ended up homeless in 2011. He was arrested for camping in Cocoa Beach, Florida, missed the court date for that violation, and a warrant was issued. He was fishing when he was picked up on that warrant. Not robbing banks. Not stealing purses. Fishing. Hauled off to jail. Two months later, he was struck and killed by a driver that veered onto the shoulder of the road where the man was walking. The driver was charged with failure to exercise due caution, found guilty, and ordered to pay $134 fine. The relatives for the man from Cuba have not been located.