Newly released numbers obtained by Local 2 show that in 2013, 24 bodies at the Harris County morgue were listed as "unclaimed."
Unclaimed, in this case, means a dead body was identified and next of kin was notified, but family members would not take responsibility for their "loved one."
"Those individuals are a very minor number every year," said Sharon Derrick, a forensic anthropologist with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
The reasons why someone will not claim the body of a family member vary, Derrick said. Most often, the individual who died is estranged from the family and has been away from other family members for an extended period of time.
Slightly more common, at least in 2013, was the number of bodies where next of kin could simply not be found. That circumstance happened 35 times last year, according to records obtained by Local 2.
Each of these unfortunate statistics contributed to additional bodies at the Harris County cemetery, which is devoid of traditional headstones. Instead, smaller cement pavers mark grave sites.
The majority of the 200 to 500 people buried at the cemetery on Oates Road every year are indigent.
In the vast majority of these cases, 182 in 2013, next of kin told Harris County's Bereavement Services Department they can not afford to pay for burial or cremation of their family member.
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has an "ID Team" that specializes in verifying identities. In 2013, only one person remained unidentified.
Since 1957, 370 remain unidentified. Some of those people are listed here.
One such victim, known as the "Smurf Shirt Girl," was murdered in 2012 in northeast Houston in October 2012. Her partially skeletonized remains, found in a trash bag, have never been identified. She is believed to be 15 to 17 years old.
If think you can help identify someone who has died in Harris County, call the "ID Team" at 713-796-6774.