Hundreds of body parts were removed Thursday from the Lake City office of a neurologist whose Gainesville home was filled with heads, brains, spines and other specimens.
The parts found in the Neurological Sciences Center of Dr. Joseph James Warner, 49, are believed to be from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lake City and from the University of Florida College of Medicine, police and VA officials said.
Warner has not been charged with the Lake City case. He was charged Tuesday with storage/preservation of human remains and domestic battery in the Gainesville case. Both are misdemeanors.
Lake City Police Capt. Gary Laxton said his department began investigating Warner after speaking with Gainesville Police.
"In part of his office that was kept locked, we found a small laboratory and it was just full of all kinds of body parts, the full range," Laxton said.
"There were some brains, hearts, skulls and heads, a couple of arms with part of the shoulder still attached. I'm saying hundreds, but we had - it just seems like forever - a bunch of little jars with obvious parts of some sort in it."
Laxton said some of the body parts came from the VA Medical Center in Lake City and others from UF.
Warner got a medical degree from UF in 1979 and was a courtesy professor with a laboratory at UF. Warner worked at the Lake City VA Medical Center from December 1989 to October 1996.
John Pickens, spokesman for the VA hospitals in Lake City and Gainesville, said the VA's Inspector General's Office sent a team to Warner's Lake City office to take custody of the specimens and move them to the Lake City VA hospital.
"We've prepared a storage area, and the specimens will be under exclusive control of the (Inspector General's Office) until a thorough investigation can be completed to determine what all these specimens are and how many of them are actually VA property," he said. "At this point we know that Dr. Warner had no authority to remove any VA property. We have very strict research protocols.
"Dr. Warner was working on a research project for neuroanatomy. I suspect that that research would have included examination of specimens, but there is not a lot of research conducted at the Lake City VA."
Warner was at GPD on Thursday with his attorney, Chief Assistant Public Defender John Kearns. Cpl. Keith Kameg said Warner was asked to come to the station to talk with detectives, but declined to talk when he got there.
Police, working with a UF human identification experts, continued to catalog and collect the body parts at Warner's house at 3211 NW 38th St. on Thursday.
Information surfaces Police first learned the house was full of body parts when called there Monday night in regard to a domestic battery complaint involving Warner and his wife, Debra Warner.
He was arrested early Tuesday morning after police began finding containers full of parts.
Warner has been married at least four times and has had several live-in girlfriends. Debra Warner and one former girlfriend said he force-fed them drugs, was physically abusive and verbally abusive, and was extremely controlling.
A former girlfriend named Kim, who asked only her first name be used, said Warner used only a fraction of the body parts for research.
"When I first walked in the door, there were 15 buckets of brains in the doorway," she said. "He wasn't studying all those brains. He was collecting them. He never opened one of those buckets in the 10 months I lived in that house."
She added that she wants to contact all of Warner's former wives and recent former girlfriends for support.
Dedicated researcher Colleagues of Warner said neuroanatomy was his passion.
Dr. Stephen Nadeau is the staff neurologist at the VA Medical Center in Gainesville and a University of Florida professor of neurology.
He said he first became acquainted with Warner when Warner was a medical student rotating through the neurology service where Nadeau was the resident.
More recently, Warner contributed to a medical neuroscience text for which Nadeau is the principal author.
"In all my professional interactions with him over the years, I have found him to be honest, decent, altruistic and an incredibly enthusiastic anatomist and teacher," Nadeau said Thursday.
'Impressive' work Nadeau cited the atlas Warner produced last year, describing it as "unquestionably an impressive piece of work, designed to help students understand the incredibly complex structure of the human brain.
As principal author of another textbook for medical students, due out next year, Nadeau said he invited Warner to contribute some of his illustrations.
"I am sure zillions of hours of work over many years went into producing that atlas," Nadeau said. "It is Joe's eccentricity that he brought his work home.
"If you talked to Joe about it, he'd say, 'This is my life's work.' Neuroanatomy is his passion, his amusement, his goal, his life."
The neurologist added, "If I was doing something as extensive as Joe Warner, I suppose it would have occurred to me to ask if it was OK to take things home.
"But he was probably carried away by the excitement of his endeavor and it didn't occur to him."
Warner has had extensive spinal surgery. According to a 1997 article in the St. Petersburg Times, Warner was the focus of an investigation by the VA Inspector General's Office regarding his ability to properly tend to patients because his spinal trouble limited his mobility.
Warner asserted that VA managers knew his spinal condition, which sometimes limits him to a wheelchair, made him unable to perform rigorous medical procedures.
He says they nonetheless assigned him responsibilities of medical officer of the day, the Times reported.
The VA's inspector general concluded that dying patients may have missed a "second chance" because the hospital assigned a physician who was unable to revive patients or perform other rigorous procedures, according to the Times.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@ gvillesun.com.