General Question

raum's avatar

How to find next of kin?

Asked by raum (13206points) 3 months ago
26 responses
“Great Question” (6points)

My niece was friends with an unhoused man. She had been looking for him the past week to check up on him. Later on, she saw that someone had lit a candle where he usually sleeps with a sign that read “RIP Willie”. She was incredibly distraught when she found out. :(

I called Police Non-Emergency Line multiple times, but kept getting a busy signal. I called 211 to ask for suggestions on where to start. They gave me the number for Mobile Outreach and County Coroner’s Office.

Mobile Outreach said they were unable to share any information with me, even if they had any.

Unfortunately, the county coroner’s office had a match to the description that I gave them.

His name was Willie. She hadn’t seen him since the week before. Black man around 5‘10 or so, probably 60s, lean. Usually slept under the 580 underpass near Market St.

They had someone that matched his description and location. He had passed away on the sixth of January. Cause of death undetermined. :(

The deputy spoke with me. They’re trying to find next of kin. My niece said he had mentioned that his wife had passed away. But doesn’t remember him mentioning other family.

I’m hoping to help find next of kin. So that someone will claim the remains and hopefully have a memorial service. He was loved and will be missed by a lot of people in the neighborhood. Hoping they could share lots of wonderful stories they have of him with his next of kin to help find closure.

Deputy gave me a last name, Scoggins. Been Verified and Truth Finder both seem kind of sketch. I’ve DM’d some random people on Facebook. Everyone that’s replied so far has been a dead end.

Any suggestions?

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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Bless your niece for befriending him. Bless you for assisting in locating any kin.

I am unaware of how to go about finding relatives, but I’m not surprised Mobile Outreach was unable to give any information. It’s protected by HIPAA. Personal health information is protected for 50 years after death.

I am not sure of laws governing coroners. Since yours gave out information, it seems they are not covered by HIPAA.

elbanditoroso's avatar

About the only thing I could suggest would be to contact the county (or state) Bureau of Vital Statistics – not sure where you are – there is an I-580 in Philly and another in California.

Vital Statistics records but I don’t know how long it takes them to record a death. It could be a couple of weeks.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I recommend getting an obituary.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 but he doesn’t know the guy’s name, so an obituary isn’t going to be helpful. And who would have created the obituary message?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@elbanditoroso I thought his name was Willie? How about posting bills where he lived for anyone who remembers him to reach out?

How about hiring a private investigator?

I’m tapped. I don’t have any other ideas.

jca2's avatar

I’m really good at googling and have found people’s names, addresses and other info when I had very little to go on.

Do you know where (what town) he was from? If so, try googling his first name, last namd and the town. Try googling his first name, last name, the town he’s from and the word “arrested.” Try googling his first name, last name, the town he’s from and the word “obituary.” That way, wtih the word “obituary,” if his mother or father had passed away and there was a printed obituary, it will come up and it will say names of next of kin and provide you with other details.

Sometimes I google people and I will just keep googling and googling and eventually, something comes up.

If you don’t know the town he’s from, try googling the above with the state, or with the name of the town he lived in now.

In some cases, the next of kin might not be able to be notified, if nobody can find anything, and in those cases, it won’t be until they’re searching for him and they contact the local police department or other authorities that they will find out.

smudges's avatar

@raum What town is your niece in? I found a lot of “Willie Scoggins” but don’t know what town or even state.

I’m like @jca2 – a bird dog when it comes to finding info

raum's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Yeah, totally understand the medical privacy thing. Though I wasn’t asking for medical information. Just if the knew anyone that fit that description in that neighborhood. And if they knew whether they were still alive or had passed away.

Understandable—but still sucks to hit another dead end. Especially one with potentially the most information. :/

I was a little surprised that the coroners office shared his last name. Though I suppose that’s public information.

raum's avatar

@elbanditoroso This is in Oakland, CA. Can anyone request a death certificate? It feels a bit intrusive, since we aren’t family. And not sure how much more information we would get.

The coroners office shared last name, date of death, case of death (undetermined) and that the deputy was looking into next of kin.

raum's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 I thought about posting fliers. Though not sure how many unhoused people have access to a cell phone to call or email me. I contemplated going to that neighborhood and asking around. But kind of hard since it’s a secondary relationship, since he was actually friends with my niece. (ie If someone showed me a picture, I wouldn’t even be able to confirm.)

raum's avatar

@jca2 and @smudges Not sure where he was from originally. But he has been living in Oakland for the last few years.

Googled different combinations of “Willie” “William” “Scoggins” “Oakland” “obituary” “survived by” and “husband”.

jca2's avatar

I’m guessing the deputy is also looking for arrest records and other things that might give next of kin.

Also check two address databases, Zabasearch and Spokeo.

Also if you know what Willie did for a living, check his first name, last name, his job and his state. For example, if he was a hairdresser, google Willie Smith hairdresser Georgia or Willie Smith barber Georgia. You never know, sometimes there may have been a professional organization or a licensing board that he belonged to, that will come up. Also, he may have been involved in a lawsuit and by googling his profession, it may come up that way.

If you’re on Facebook, look for his name in the FB search bar. Even if he doesn’t have a FB page, you never know if someone may have mentioned him and there will be a post or a photo “Willie Smith at his family barbecue in Georgia” or something like that. You never know. It may be a long shot but it’s worth trying everything.

Just google, google google using everything you have, in different combinations, and you may find something. Like I said above, you may not, and in that case, nothing will happen until some relative comes looking for him and finds out the bad news.

jca2's avatar

Try William Scoggins California obituary. Willie Scoggins california obituary. Wilie Scoggins california arrest. Willie scoggins california sentencing.

Keep trying.

raum's avatar

@jca2 I’ve been googling everything I can think of and DMing a ton of random local Scoggins on Facebook. So much so, that Facebook froze my DMs. I probably think they think I’m a spam bot. Haha

Was talking to a friend of mine who works for Oakland Public Library. I’m going to email their reference librarian tomorrow. Hoping they can help me find his wife’s obituary.

jca2's avatar

If he was a veteran, he may be registered at the local archives (County) if he opted to register upon discharge from the military.

raum's avatar

I found this article and learned a new term today. Indigent cases.

raum's avatar

Good idea! Thanks, @jca2.

raum's avatar

Also found this. Looks like his remains will be interred at Grissom’s Chapel and Mortuary. Grateful that we are in a county that offers cremation and indefinite interment for indigent cases.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@raum your link is broken

raum's avatar

So strange. If I cut and paste into a browser, it works. If I cut and paste into Fluther, it doesn’t.

At any rate, it’s a link to a contract with Alameda County for cremation and interment of indigent cases for the term of 7/2022 – 6/2024.

raum's avatar

So I called the coroners office to see if they could give me a DOB to narrow down my search results. They suggested that I request a coroners report. I was surprised and asked if the report was done, if the deputy had found next of kin. They said yes, next of kin is listed. So I requested a coroners report. But the email said my request was denied because “investigation is still open”?

Have no idea if that means the person on the phone was wrong and they’re still trying to find next of kin? Or if they’re still investigating cause of death? When I asked the first time, they said cause of death was not listed. I assumed it was because an autopsy wasn’t done?

I also called Oakland Public Library. But they said their internet was down. So I emailed them the information I had and hope they can find something when their internet is back up.

[fingers crossed]

jca2's avatar

Around here, a coroner’s report takes months to get done.

smudges's avatar

I would guess that the cause of death is not listed because it may be pending an autopsy, which would be performed unless the cause of death was obvious, like a gunshot wound. But that’s just a guess.

raum's avatar

@jca2 I think you’re right. I hadn’t realized that it takes that long. But that makes sense.

@smudges Is the protocol to autopsy every body? I would think they would autopsy death by gunshot. I remember arguing with my family about having an autopsy done or not. But wondering what the default is if there’s no next of kin.

jca2's avatar

@raum They don’t autopsy every body, but they will autopsy if the deceased was young or if the death was suspicious, or from a crime. So if they think there was an OD, or 40 year old just dropped dead, or a Matthew Perry (to figure out if he died from drowning or was he dead when he slipped into the water), stuff like that, yes.

They probably denied your request because the report wasn’t done yet. The autopsy is done within days but the tests take longer and the report can be months.

smudges's avatar

You’re right, they would autopsy a gunshot death.

An autopsy should be performed when:
*There is a suspicious, unexpected, or unnatural death, such as murder, suicide, accident, or overdose
*There is a public health concern, such as an outbreak or a tainted food source
*There is no doctor who knows the deceased well enough to state a cause of death and sign the death certificate
*The doctor, the family, or the legally responsible designee of the deceased requests an autopsy (this probably fits your situation)
An autopsy is best performed within 24 hours of death, before organs deteriorate, and ideally before embalming.

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