The 2,246 fetal remains found in the Illinois garage of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer this month are from abortions he performed between 2000 and 2002, when he operated clinics in Indiana, authorities said.
Klopfer died on September 3 and his family was going through his belongings at his home in Will County, about 45 miles from Chicago, when they found the medically preserved remains, authorities said.
They were inside small, sealed plastic bags that contained a chemical used to preserve biological material, Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley told reporters at a news conference Thursday. They were in boxes that were mixed in with other storage boxes
"I can tell you, the 31 years I've been doing this job, I have never seen anything like this, ever. It is a strange, one of those once-in-a-lifetime things," he said.
Klopfer operated three abortion clinics in South Bend, Indiana, before his license was suspended in 2015. County officials estimated how long the remains had been preserved but did not provide details on how they determined they were from nearly two decades ago.
"The condition they are in, it is clear that they are older," said James Glasgow, Will County state's attorney.
Klopfer did not follow Indiana law for disposal of the fetal remains and the filing of the proper paperwork, Glasgow said. The remains will be transferred to the custody of the Indiana attorney general.
An attorney representing the doctor's family called the Will County coroner's office on September 12 to inform them the family had discovered what appeared to be the remains of fetuses and asked for assistance in removing them, the Will County Sheriff's Office said.
Detectives arrived at the address and the coroner's office took the remains. The family is cooperating with the investigation.
There is no evidence any medical procedures were conducted at the doctor's property, according to the sheriff's office.
Anti-abortion groups have gathered at the site of his former clinics to demand the identification and burial of the remains, CNN affiliate WNDU reported.
One woman told WNDU that she was raped as a minor and had an abortion at one of Klopfer's clinics.
"For me, closure would be just know if my baby was on his property so that I can just have a proper burial," Serena Dyksen said.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, called for an investigation.
"Like everyone, I find the news out of Illinois extremely disturbing, and I think it's important that it be fully investigated," Buttigieg said Wednesday. "I also hope it doesn't get caught up in politics at a time when women need access to health care. There's no question that what happened is disturbing. It's unacceptable. And it needs to be looked into fully."