L.A. coroner investigating case of stolen leg

The Los Angeles County coroner suspects that a staff member leaked details regarding a stolen leg.
(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

An inquiry was continuing on Wednesday involving the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, where the coroner suspects that a staff member leaked details regarding a stolen leg.

The donated leg was taken early Monday from a vehicle belonging to One Legacy, a nonprofit organ and tissue donation organization that works with the coroner’s office, Mark Fajardo, the county’s chief medical examiner-coroner, wrote in a letter addressed to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The Times obtained a copy of the letter.

According to Fajardo, staff members at One Legacy had picked up the leg about 3 a.m. and then decided to eat at a downtown L.A. restaurant. When they came back to their vehicle, the leg was gone. The limb had been wrapped in blue-and-clear plastic and was chilling in a cooler, making it difficult to spot from the outside, he said.


“It wasn’t just a leg sitting in a cooler -- that’s probably why the person was completely unaware of what it was,” Fajardo told The Times.

The theft was reported to the Los Angeles Police Department. Officials obtained a DNA sample from the donor to identify any limb that is recovered. Family members of the late donor were notified, Fajardo said.

Confidentiality laws prevent the coroner from releasing any information about the donor’s identity.

But the probe took a turn Wednesday when One Legacy spotted a “potentially libelous statement” online regarding the theft, Fajardo said.


The post alleged that the coroner’s office and One Legacy were in cahoots to cover up the crime. Soon, TV news organizations were calling the coroner’s office with questions about the incident, Fajardo said.

Now, officials and One Legacy are trying to suss out the source of the leak. 

“As it stands today, we do not know who ‘leaked’ the information, but it appears at face value to be one of my employees,” Fajardo said in his letter to the Board of Supervisors. 

“I tried to be very direct and to the point informing the board,” Fajardo later told The Times. “Whether the leg turns up, I do not know.”


For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno and @gtherolf.


L.A. controller warns of City Hall’s aging workforce

Brothers arrested in triple slaying at medical pot farm in Northern California


New York parolee is convicted of killing 82-year-old pen pal in Hollywood