DENVER — The disturbing theft of a box of human heads has shocked the city, along with local organ or body donation centers.
According to the Denver Police Department, a truck was parked in the 7700 block of East 23rd Avenue when the thief broke into it sometime between 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. Thursday and left with a box and a dolly. Inside of the box were human remains, specifically heads, intended for medical research.
“Why was it able to get stolen? Why was the truck parked there?" asked Pila Ross, who lives in the area. "You never know what those heads were going to be used for. What are you going to do with them now that you found them?”
No arrests have been made at this time as investigators work to identify the suspect or suspects.
On Monday, Denver7 confirmed the box of remains was stolen from a company called Science Care, which supplied the following statement:
As the industry leader, Science Care is responsible for helping to establish and carry out standards for the nontransplant tissue-banking industry.
Science Care links donors who choose to donate their body to science with medical researchers and educators all over the world, leading to medical research and training that improves the quality of life for all of us. As the first accredited non-transplant tissue bank in the world, we pride ourselves on compliance and safety in everything we do.
Recently, an incident occurred in the Denver area where a sealed box containing donated tissues was stolen from a secured truck operated by a third-party specializing in the logistics of donated tissues. The secured truck was in the process of returning the tissue to Science Care after a medical training event. Unknown individuals illegally broke into the truck and robbed it of the Science Care box.
We were made aware of the theft immediately and we have been working closely with local Denver authorities to investigate this crime. We are doing everything we can to locate the stolen tissue and protect the community. Due to the sensitive nature of our business, and as there are several on-going investigations, we do not have any further comment on this criminal matter.
This is an extremely rare situation, and we appreciate the attention the media has brought to the community to help assist us in locating the stolen box. As has been reported, the missing tissue is in a white cardboard box with a blue “Science Care” logo. The box is approximately 20 x 15 x 18 inches. If anyone has any information on this crime, or on the whereabouts of the box or donated tissue, we urge you to please contact the Denver police at 720-913-2000 or Science Care at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to a safe resolution of this situation.
Meaningful Donation, a local donation center, called the theft deeply disturbing. Those with the program say they will now use tracking devices on all of their shipments and also strengthen their security measures.
Tomorrow Link is a nonprofit whole body donation program in Denver that was started in 2017. Lauren Lipchak, the director of operations, says she's worried about the negative impact the theft could have on the industry.
“I really hope that this does not deter people from donating," she said. "Donation is such a incredibly powerful gift, not only for enhancing medical training, but it allows that individual's legacy to live on."
Tomorrow Link's mission is to provide critical care skills training for future first responders or medical professionals.
“With whole body donation, really, it's limitless," said Lipchak. "There's so many different medical specialties that benefit from donation. Whether it's finding a cure for cancer, or training a heart surgeon how to do a new procedure that's less invasive, or training EMS to do difficult airway management."
Justin Harper, assistant chief of Denver Health Paramedics, calls the learning experience from Tomorrow Link more valuable than any lecture. The paramedics partner with Tomorrow Link for training purposes.
“Without this type of donation, without this type of educational opportunity, we wouldn't have the quality of paramedics and the quality of EMTs that we have," said Harper. “Returning the box would be helpful. I think that would be a good starting point. But, certainly recognizing the gravity and the impact that this has had, it definitely is taking away opportunities for people to learn and grow.”
To put it simply, the box contained more than human heads.
“It holds the opportunity to save a life," Harper said.
Those with Tomorrow Link say they maintain a close relationship with a donor's loved ones during the process. They understand the importance of such a donation, both from the perspective of the families going through the process and the future of medical advancements or training for which it was intended.
“Let this be a lesson to all of us within the industry, just to make sure that we're doing everything we can at all times to make sure those gifts are safe," Lipchak said.
If you find the box, you are asked to call the Denver Police Department at 720-913-2000. Anyone with information that could help with the investigation is asked to call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-7867.