18 human heads found at O'Hare International Airport

11:54 AM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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CHICAGO (CBS) -- Investigators are working to determine if a shipment of 18 human heads intercepted by customs officials at O'Hare International Airport are, in fact, legitimate medical specimens, authorities said Tuesday morning.

The heads, sent to Chicago from outside the U.S., were discovered Monday by U.S. Customs officials and appear to be medical samples at first blush, said Brian Bell, a Chicago-based spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

"There's no issue with the transportation of body parts for medical purposes," Bell said. "There's nothing against the law that says you cannot ship them, provided you have the right documentation."

While Bell said he has never before fielded questions about a large package of human body parts, such shipments are not without precedent, he noted.

"Everybody here is 'Oh my gosh, you got a box of heads' and everybody thinks that it's unheard of," Bell said. "It is a potentially legitimate medical shipment. We've seen it at various ports in the nation."

Bell declined to say where the package was shipped from, where its intended destination is, or how the heads were packaged and preserved.

The specimens, which are still covered in skin, were sent to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office for inspection, authorities said. Foul play was not involved in the collection of the heads

"We need to make sure that they are truly used for medical research purposes," said Bell.

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