CHICAGO (Reuters) - Investigators probing a shipment of 18 human heads intercepted at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport have determined they came from bodies donated for scientific research and were being transported for disposal, officials said on Tuesday.
U.S. Customs agents discovered the grisly package, which was shipped to Chicago from Italy shortly before Christmas, on Monday. Because the shipment's paperwork was not in order, agents confiscated the heads and sent them to the Cook County Medical Examiner for safekeeping, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said.
The heads, which had been used a medical research facility in Rome, were properly embalmed, wrapped and labeled when they arrived at the airport, said Mary Paleologos, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner. Foul play has been ruled out, she said.
On Tuesday, the cremation company that was supposed to take delivery of the heads and dispose of them presented the missing paperwork to the medical examiner, Paleologos said.
The medical examiner said the remains would not be released to the company until federal authorities verified the paperwork.
In the meantime, the medical examiner is photographing and x-raying the embalmed heads for record-keeping purposes, Paleologos said.
(Reporting James B. Kelleher; Editing James Dalgleish)