Freezer holding body parts wasn't cold

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —One of two walk-in freezers where authorities found bodies and body parts wasn't working, so the remains have contaminated the building and forced health officials to treat it like a biohazard.

City officials will work with the property owners to clean up the health hazards caused by both decomposing bodies and unknown chemicals stored on the site, Darren White, chief of Albuquerque's public safety department, said Monday.

Officers who served a search warrant on Bio Care found two commercial walk-in freezers used to store bodies and body parts, but only one of the freezers was working, White said.

"We have a concern that (the freezer) may have leaked and contaminated the building," he said.

The state Office of the Medical Investigator earlier removed all human remains from the building, which Bio Care had been leasing.

Bio Care's owner, Paul Montano, was arrested last month on fraud charges after seven heads, a torso and several limbs found at Stericycle Co., a Kansas City, Kan., medical waste company were traced to his company.

Bio Care harvested organs and other parts from donated bodies to sell for medical research. Once that was finished, Bio Care sent the remains for cremation and gave the ashes to the families.

Montano was charged after some body parts found in Kansas were identified as belonging to people whose cremated remains had been returned to their families.

Authorities waited until the criminal investigation finished at Bio Care's office before moving ahead with the hazard investigation.

The building also contained coolers, such as those that can be bought at stores, with markings that made authorities believe they contained human remains at some point, White said.

Officials served an administrative search warrant on the property, but White said the owner planned to clean up the building anyway and is very cooperative. No other tenants from the office complex were displaced.

"With the biohazard concerns, we felt it necessary to go in and ensure that whatever type of biohazard it is, it's cleaned up properly," White said.

Officials said the red tag indicating a biohazard can be removed and the building leased again once remediation is finished.

Cleanup is expected to take several weeks.