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Local News

Will County Sheriff: 'I've never seen anything like this ever' – authorities have no idea why doctor hoarded fetal remains

Will County sheriff: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, ever’

Law enforcement still has no idea why a well-known abortion doctor was hoarding the remains of thousands of fetuses in the garage of his Crete Township home, Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley said during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, ever,” Kelley said. “It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things.”

Only hours before the news conference, investigators with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and local police began searching a Fort Wayne, Indiana, building where Dr. Ulrich “George” Klopfer operated an abortion clinic until 2013.

After spending more than seven hours searching through the clutter reportedly inside Klopfer’s former Fort Wayne clinic, investigators began loading boxes of Klopfer’s belongings into a large U-Haul truck Thursday.

Officers began searching the building at 2210 Inwood Drive about 9 a.m. Investigators from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and local police arrived at the scene about 8 a.m. before obtaining a search warrant to go inside the clinic.

News of his Sept. 3 death came as a surprise to employees who worked in the neighboring buildings, who were accustomed to seeing Klopfer during his weekly overnight stays in the clinic basement. Even in the years since Klopfer’s office was shut down, the doctor stopped by regularly, said Thomas Bastress, who owns a NAPA Auto Parts store next door to Klopfer’s shuttered clinic.

“He’d come over here every Thursday, and the last two Thursdays he wasn’t here and we knew something was up,” Bastress said.

It was only a matter of time before police raided the late doctor’s office, Bastress said, somewhat unsurprised at the sight of the heavy police presence unfolding in his store’s parking lot.

“I was wondering when this all was going to come down,” Bastress said. “He was a creepy guy.”

Klopfer died of natural causes.

Last week, his family discovered more than 2,200 preserved fetal remains stored in cardboard boxes in the Pine Court home’s garage. Investigators on his Fort Wayne clinic property Thursday declined to say why they were there.

During the news conference, Kelley would not theorize why Klopfer had the remains at his home.

“Without being able to talk to him, obviously because he’s deceased, it’s kind of tough for us to even speculate what his motivation was to bring them there,” Kelley said.

Neighbors described Klopfer as a hoarder, while an attorney for his wife said she had not been in the garage for decades where the remains were found.

An attorney for Klopfer’s family contacted the Will County Coroner’s Office about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 12 about the discovery of what appeared to be fetal remains, the sheriff’s office said.

Detectives and representatives from the coroner’s office found 2,246 medically preserved fetal remains in the attached garage of the home, the sheriff’s office said.

The coroner’s office took possession of the remains. Authorities said there was no evidence of medical procedures occurring at Klopfer’s property.

Klopfer performed his last known abortion at the Fort Wayne clinic in December 2013, said Cathie Humbarger, executive director for Allen County Right to Life, which has a building next door to the closed Fort Wayne clinic. On Thursday, Humbarger watched as police wearing surgical masks went inside the building that for years, only Klopfer had entered. In the time she knew Klopfer, the doctor was known to make inappropriate, sexually explicit comments to female volunteers with Right to Life, Humbarger said.

In October 2018, Klopfer opened up his clinic for an interview with married couple and documentary filmmakers Amber and Mark Archer.

“He just looked disheveled,” Mark Archer said. “He looked like an old man who had spent the night on the park bench.”

In fact, Klopfer spent the night at the clinic, appearing to have been woken up when the couple knocked on the office door for their scheduled 9 a.m. interview.

“It was very cold, very dark, very dirty,” Mark Archer said. “It looked to me like one day everybody walked out, dropped everything on the floor and never came back.”

The Archers spent the past year putting together a documentary film about Klopfer’s practices. News of the remains found at his home has delayed the release of the film until 2020, Mark Archer said.

Even after hours of conversation with Klopfer, the Archers could not say with certainty why the doctor might have kept the remains.

“In my opinion, I think George held onto the remains either as trophies … or trying to cover up what he had done,” Mark Archer said.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow refused to disclose where the remains were taken, saying only that they are in Will County.

Glasgow at first told reporters at Thursday’s news conference that he couldn’t say how investigators determined the fetal remains dated from 2000 to 2002, but later said it was confirmed through paperwork and medical means.

Will County authorities are working with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office to transfer the remains to their custody for their investigation.

The remains were found in more than 70 cardboard boxes, and they were in small, sealed plastic bags containing formalin, a chemical used to preserve biological materials. The boxes with the remains were mixed with other boxes containing Klopfer’s personal property, authorities said.

Kelley said the Will County investigation of the remains is over “for the most part.” He also said authorities are asking “the media and the public” not to pass judgment on the Klopfer family who “made this startling discovery and who have been cooperating fully throughout this entire process.”

Joseph Scheidler, national director for the Pro-Life Action League, was outside the sheriff’s office after Thursday’s news conference. He said he thought Klopfer was “not a good man” but was praying for him and the fetal remains.

His son Eric Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League executive director, said in a statement that the discovery of the fetal remains “tears off the mask of ‘choice’ and reveals the inhumanity of abortion to all of us.”

“Even the most ardent defenders of abortion admit how disturbing it is to contemplate this kind of stockpiling of fetal remains,” he said.

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