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Someone left a heart in an Ohio field; where it came from is a mystery

Ohio police are looking for the owner of a heart that was found in a field. This illustration shows the human vascular system. [The Washington Post]

Ohio police are looking for the owner of a heart that was found in a field. This illustration shows the human vascular system. [The Washington Post]

Only an hour earlier, the field beside a convenience store parking in Norwalk, Ohio was empty.

An EMS crew from the small town 60 miles southwest of Cleveland had been parked nearby on Aug. 25 and left after receiving a call for service. When they returned in their ambulance, police told the Norwalk Reflector, there was a mysterious bag sitting in the field.

Upon investigating, the crew members found themselves staring at what appeared to be a human heart.

"It was fresh; it wasn't decomposed," Norwalk, Ohio, Police Chief Dave Light told the Reflector.

Detective Sgt. Jim Fulton told the paper that probably an hour had passed between the time the crew left the parking lot and returned.

"After they returned, it was there," Fulton said. "It was just a little ways into that field off the parking lot. It was in a plastic bag."

The paramedics called police, who picked up the heart and transported it to the county coroner's office for testing the next day.

Authorities say they are confident that the heart is human, which raises a troubling question: To whom does the heart belong?

Police told the Reflector that they're not aware of any cases in which a heart has been stolen, nor do they have any reports of grave robberies or bodies being tampered with.

"I haven't heard anything like that," Light told the paper, noting that he'd hoped local media coverage might lead someone to step forward with information about a missing organ.

Jill Del Greco, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, told the paper that her agency is not investigating any cases involving a missing heart.

"We wouldn't necessarily hear about it," Del Greco told the Reflector. "Most cases are handled at the local level."

Light admitted that the paramedics who found the heart could not be certain it was human in origin. Pigs, chimpanzees and dogs all have hearts that can resemble human hearts.

"Pig hearts are promising because they're close enough to human hearts in anatomy," Popular Science reported in an article about the possibility of using animal hearts as transplants for human patients. "Doctors also already use heart valves taken from pigs and cows in human surgeries."

On any given day, about 3,000 people in the United States are on the waiting list for a heart transplant, but only about 2,000 hearts become available each year, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Wait times can last from several days to several months, the institute notes, and can hinge upon someone's medical condition and blood type.

Huron County, Ohio, coroner Jeff Harwood told the Reflector that when he first encountered the heart "it was in pretty good condition," but the organ "had an odor of decomposition to it."

He noted that nobody had been in touch with him to claim the heart.

Asked whether he could be certain that the heart was human, the coroner said, "I could not say it was not, so that's why we shipped it off."

"They wanted to do some tests on the fluid to see if it's a preservative," he added.

Police told the paper that the coroner's office performed a biopsy before sending the heart to a veterinarian for additional analysis.

"They're 95 percent sure it was human," Light told the Reflector, "but they want to make 100 percent sure."

Tracing body parts is a task that police sometimes find themselves engaged in. In June, police in Penn Township, Pa., discovered a human brain beneath a robbery suspect's porch.

The brain even had a name: "Freddy."

Police say the name was given to the brain by Joshua Lee Long, who is incarcerated in connection with burglaries in Pennsylvania, according to the Sentinel.

Police think the brain was stolen.

Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall confirmed that the brain belonged to an adult human.

Pennsylvania state trooper Bob Hicks told television station WPMT that investigators think the brain was originally used for teaching purposes. Police accused Long of using the brain to get high by spraying the organ's embalming fluid on marijuana.

"At this point now, we're just trying to figure out where it came from," he said. "We're hoping that if anyone feels like they're missing a human specimen brain, bring it to our attention and maybe we could return it to its rightful owner."

Someone left a heart in an Ohio field; where it came from is a mystery 09/11/16 [Last modified: Sunday, September 11, 2016 2:52pm]
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