Purchase Orders, Bills and Unclaimed Bodies- Henrico has a Job for that!

by Jenn Montrose- Marketing & Technology Specialist, Human Resources

Henrico employs thousands of people. What most of us don’t realize is that there are many positions and different aspects of jobs in the County that we wouldn’t even think existed. The perfect example of this is Sarah Garrison, an Account Clerk in the Finance Section of the Sheriff’s Office.

Sarah has worked for Henrico County for almost three years. The primary function of her job is to handle purchase orders and pay all bills that have to do with the Sheriff’s facility. Sounds pretty much like her job title right?

Did you also know, Sarah is the person in Henrico County who processes unclaimed dead bodies? Yes, that is a job that must be done in order for our county to continue to function and serve our citizens. When someone passes away, and there is no immediate next of kin, friend, or someone to claim that person, they are sent to Bennett’s Funeral Home and from there Sarah is notified.

“Processing unclaimed bodies is the most interesting thing I have ever done. No two are the same and you never know when they are going to pop up,” Sarah said. This past year alone she has had to process 35 of them. They show up on her desk multiple different ways. No, not the actual bodies, the paperwork associated with them. Whether from the hospital, nursing home or Police Division directly, Sarah’s job for the next 10 days is to try to find anyone with a relationship to the deceased person and turn them over to that family. After 10 days, if her search is unsuccessful the process of assembling a packet to submit to the County Attorney begins. This is all part of the unclaimed procedure set forth by the State and handled by our Sheriff’s department. “It seems like a crazy process but we have a fantastic relationship with the Police Division who are always willing to help try and find next of kin,” Sarah said. 

Once the packet goes to the County Attorney, the County Attorney files a motion and draft order in the Henrico Circuit Court.  After it is processed, the County Attorney forwards the executed order to the Sheriff’s office giving them authority to proceed with the cremation. All unclaimed bodies are property of the Sheriff’s Office. Each body is given a death certificate and ID and are kept at the funeral home until either someone comes and asks for the remains or they have enough people to perform a bulk burial. Since starting this specific duty Sarah has only had two cases where the individual could not be cremated, by order of the medical examiner. If for any reason, there is any doubt when trying to identify someone, and it is not 100% conclusive, that person must be buried, not cremated, in case DNA testing is needed in the future. Sarah handles all arrangements for this as well.

“I think it is great that the county offers this and that the law enforcement agencies in the county can work together so easily towards a common goal. I have heard that this process does not go as smooth in other localities,” said Sarah. 

This unique job duty  is a part of Sarah’s work that continues to benefit and help Henrico County. Through collaboration with the Police Division and full support from the Sheriff’s Office, unclaimed bodies are cared for just as much as anyone else. So, the next time you are chatting with a co-worker about their job, ask if there are any fun and interesting aspects you might not know about. Their answers might surprise you!