When police can't find the families of the deceased, the bodies are held in a cooler on the eleventh floor at the state Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill.
Most bodies are cremated and stored in urns that line the shelves just below unclaimed skeletal remains in a back room in the examiner's office. If they go unclaimed for a few years, the ashes are spread respectfully but unceremoniously in the Atlantic Ocean.
Clyde Gibbs is a medical examiner specialist who works in the unclaimed bodies section. Gibbs says there's a certain sadness in the office.
There are 25 unclaimed bodies currently being held there. About 40 end up there each year because families don't claim the bodies or relatives of the deceased can't be found.
Some are used for scientific research. Others will be taken five nautical miles out on the Atlantic Ocean to be scattered.