Pensacola, FL – Have you watched A&E’s Storage Wars? My dad got me hooked on it. Dave Hester (“YEP!”), Darrell Sheets, the ever-quirky Barry Weiss, and the prickly Jarrod-and-Brandi duo go head-to-head in auctions of the contents of abandoned storage units.

There’s already a spin-off titled Storage Wars: Texas, and there may wind up being a New York version as well…however, no Storage Wars-related filming has been reported in Florida…which is either really good news or a total  shame based on what was found in a Pensacola storage unit last month: over 100 containers containing various human organs. YEP!

On Friday, 57-year-old Dr. Michael Berkland, a former assistant medical examiner, was arrested and charged with  improper storage of hazardous waste, nuisance injurious to public health, and driving with a suspended license. (Check out the mug–can’t you hear the sad trombone “wah wah wah” tones?)

About three years ago, Berkland rented the storage unit, claiming its contents consisted of stuff like furniture and sporting and household goods…you know, normal junk many of us accumulate and just can’t seem to let go of. After Berkland failed to pay his rental fee, the unit’s contents were auctioned off. The man who was lucky enough to snap up the contents for around $1,000, he found himself overpowered by a “strange smell.”

That smell was the formaldehyde in which the human remains had been stored. Among those remains were tissue samples, dissected organs, and some whole organs that included multiple hearts and braiiiiins. Most were stored in medical-grade containers, but some were found in Ziploc-type bags. One was found in a 32-ounce Styrofoam convenience store soft drink cup.  All of the organs are suspected to be from private autopsies Berkland performed in funeral homes in various Florida locales between 1997 and 2007. Further, most were labeled and included the initials “MEB.”

I can’t begin to imagine what led to Berkland deciding that hanging on to the organs of the recently deceased was a desirable course of action, but his employment history makes me think he may have been struggling with some kind of life issues for a while.

He worked in Pensacola’s District 1 Medical Examiner’s Office from 1997 to 2003, but was fired for not completing autopsy reports. Before that, he was fired from his position as a medical examiner in Missouri for pretty much the same thing and his physician’s license has been revoked in both Missouri and Florida.

Authorities are attempting to notify the families of those whose organs were found in Berkland’s storage unit; additional charges against him may be forthcoming.

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