An unattended death occurs when an individual dies the remains are not discovered for days, weeks, or even longer. An unattended death typically occurs when a person lives alone and lacks family members or friends who regularly check on that individual’s wellbeing.
Common Types of Unattended Deaths in Los Angeles
The most common types of unattended deaths that occur in Los Angeles include:
- Heart attack
- Undiagnosed disease
The poisoning category includes people who die from an overdose of prescription drugs. This includes people who die using opioids. The opioid crisis has increased the number of people who die unattended deaths in Los Angeles County annually.
Another significant percentage of unattended deaths are older women and men, typically over the age of 70. These individuals live alone and die alone from a fall, poisoning, by choking, or from an illness or medical condition.
Infamous Los Angeles Unattended Death
Los Angeles is home to one of the most gruesome and notorious unattended deaths to occur in the United States. The case involved the still-unsolved homicide of a woman named Elizabeth Short. Not long after her death, and through this point in time, Short became far better known as the Black Dahlia.
The Black Dahlia lost her life sometime on January 14 or 15, 1948. Her body ultimately was found, severed in half, on the morning of January 15, 1948. Her murder became the first homicide following World War II to capture the attention of the media, and the public more generally, across the United States.
125 suspects were investigated in the aftermath of the homicide. However, no one was ever charged with killing Short.
Although the tale of the Black Dahlia garners attention for a host of other reasons, it underscores how grim and gruesome the scene of an unattended death can be. Because these deaths oftentimes arise from homicide, suicide, or accident, and the remains are not immediately discovered, the death scene is likely to be horrific to behold. Significantly, the death scene is also likely to be contaminated with pathogens and bacteria of different types.
Los Angeles Unattended Death Rate and Statistics
Approximately 60,000 people die of all causes in Los Angeles during a given year. This represents a fairly consistent death rate in the City of Angeles over the course of the past decade.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office handles about 8,500 forensic examinations or autopsies during the course of any given year. Of that number, approximately 2,000 involve individuals who died an unattended death in the county.
There is some fluidity in the total tally of unintended deaths. For examples, suicides oftentimes are underreported. Thus, data recounting the exact number of individuals who committed suicide in the city is likely underreported.
Unattended Death and the Los Angeles Coroner
A situation in which a person dies an unattended death represents the most common reason the body of a deceased individual is conveyed to the office of the Los Angeles Coroner. The coroner performs what is known as a forensic examination of the remains to ascertain or confirm the cause of death.
Generally speaking, a coroner completes a forensic examination of a body associated with an unattended death within between 24 and 48 hours. Once the forensic examination by the Los Angeles coroner is completed, the family of the deceased person has 72 to hours to arrange for the removal of the body. A funeral home typically is retained to deal with funeral and burial issues, including the transport of the body of a deceased person from the funeral home to the mortuary.
What Happens If No One Claims the Remains From an Unattended Death?
As mentioned previously, many individuals who die an unattended death lack close connection with other individuals. When an unattended death occurs, and no one exists who can arrange for the preparation and burial of the remain, the body may end up at the coroner’s office beyond the 72-hour timeframe.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office can assist a person in applying for a special program through which the remains of a person who experienced an unattended death can be cremated, say no cost to the family of the deceased.
Information on this no-cost program can be obtained by contacting the Los Angeles County coroner’s office:
1104 N. Mission Road
Los Angeles, CA 90033