Official: Fetal remains found in garage nearly 2 decades old

Ulrich Klopfer

FILE – This September 2014 file photo shows Ulrich Klopfer. Officials whose offices are investigating the discovery of more than 2,200 medically preserved fetal remains at an Illinois house of Dr. Klopfer who performed abortions for decades in Indiana will hold a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, to discuss the case. Klopfer died earlier this month. (South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Illinois authorities on Thursday said that more than 2,200 preserved fetal remains found stacked in the garage of a deceased doctor’s home were from abortions performed in Indiana nearly two decades ago and it’s up to authorities there to determine if crimes were committed.

At a news conference in Joliet, Illinois, near where the remains were found sealed in individual bags inside more than 70 boxes, Will County officials said that the fetal material was from abortions performed in 2000, 2001 and 2002 in Indiana. The material will be sent back to Indiana, where authorities are investigating.

State’s Attorney James Glasgow said that there are no immediate indications that Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, who died Sept. 3, conducted any abortions in Illinois or committed any crimes in the state.

Glasgow did leave open the possibility that Illinois authorities could investigate a statement Klopfer once made that he performed an abortion of a 10-year-old Illinois girl who had been raped by her uncle, even though investigations found no records of such a crime.

He said that the laws Klopfer might have violated in Indiana were on disposal of fetal remains and failing to file the proper paperwork related to the procedures.

“If they (Indiana authorities) get any information about the 10-year-old girl and it’s within the statute of limitations then we would make ourselves available,” he said. But, he said, “We need to make no further criminal inquiry here.”

Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley and Coroner Patrick O’Neil would not say how the fetal remains were marked or whether there was information on each bag with the names of the women who had abortions. Glasgow said it is obvious from the condition of the fetal remains that the abortions were done many years ago

The officials said they were unable to even guess what might have prompted Klopfer to bring the remains to his house or why the doctor, who performed abortions at Indiana clinics for decades, only had remains from those years.

“It’s tough for us to even speculate what his motivation was to bring them there,” said Kelley.

Glasgow said that it would be up to women who had abortions at the time if they want to have information made public going forward.

The news conference was held on the same day that Indiana authorities searched two shuttered abortion clinics that were once operated by Klopfer. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said that police, prosecutors and officials from the Indiana attorney general’s office served a search warrant at Klopfer’s former clinic in South Bend.

He said that boxes of medical records were found inside.

“At this point I can tell you that there are no fetal remains here.” Cotter said during a news conference outside the building.

Cotter said that authorities also searched a vacant lot in South Bend that’s possibly connected to the shuttered clinic to determine whether or not fetal remains were buried there. Cadaver dogs searched that lot and no remains were found, he said, adding that the investigation of both properties is ongoing.

Cotter said the Indiana attorney general’s office is reviewing whether medical records at the shuttered South Bend clinic had been properly handled of and reviewed.

“There are a number of boxes of medical records so the AG’s office will continue with that investigation,” he said.

Klopfer, whose medical license was suspended in 2016 by Indiana officials, had performed abortions at clinics in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary, all cities in northern Indiana not far from Chicago.

A spokeswoman for Fort Wayne, Indiana, police told The Journal Gazette that city police assisted the Indiana attorney general’s office in obtaining a warrant for Thursday’s search of the former clinic where Klopfer once performed abortions.

WANE-TV showed footage of Fort Wayne officers near the doorway and in parking lot outside that building beyond a line of police caution tape.

Police spokeswoman Sofia Rosales-Scatena said she doesn’t know what officers found there Thursday or what they were looking for.

No search warrants have been issued in Lake County, Indiana, for Klopfer’s former abortion clinic in Gary or other properties in the northwestern Indiana potentially linked to Klopfer, said Bradley Carter, spokesman for the Lake County prosecutor’s office.

The remains were found in Illinois by Klopfer’s widow and her sister as they conducted the kind of search that people routinely do when loved ones die. An attorney for the widow has said that the women were shocked by the discovery.

On Thursday, sheriff Kelley described the discovery as the strangest case he’d seen in 31 years in law enforcement.

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This version of the story corrects the 7th paragraph to say Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley instead of Glasgow Sheriff.

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Crawford reported from Joliet, and Babwin reported from Chicago. Associated Press Writer Rick Callahan contributed to this report from Indianapolis.

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