A Northland gas station employee who looked into a cardboard box she found in a trash can Wednesday night found a bag of eyeballs staring back at her.
The employee told police she was emptying the trash about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Conoco at Northwest 112th Street and North Ambassador Drive when the suspicious package caught her eye. She opened the sealed box and found a foam cooler, filled with ice packs and a white tub labeled “6 eyes.”
Undeterred by the ominous label, she peeled off the lid and faced a clear plastic bag of eyeballs, each orb with a little flesh attached.
Surveillance video revealed that two men had dropped the eyeballs, so to speak, just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. The driver pumped gas, retrieved the package from the trunk, lifted the top off the trash can and stuffed the box into the can. They left in a blue Toyota with Nebraska license plates.
Investigators called area eye banks and hospitals to see whether they were waiting for a delivery. None was expecting any. The package didn’t bear a return address, invoice or other identifying information, just notices to “keep refrigerated.”
News about the abandoned eyes spread quickly on the Internet, generating a plethora of puns.
“Jeepers. Creepers. Where’d you get those peepers?” wrote one reader on The Star’s website.
“Eye carumba!” wrote another.
Thursday afternoon, the Jackson County medical examiner’s office determined the eyes were not human but belonged to animals, most likely pigs. Police then abandoned the investigation, saying no crime had been committed.
Investigators theorized that the eyeballs could have been destined for dissection at an area school. But Keith Barker, who works at Carolina Biological Supply Co. in North Carolina, said the animal eyeballs it provides to classrooms are preserved first so they don’t need refrigeration.
Doctors training to be eye surgeons, however, often practice on pig eyes, the fresher the better to keep the corneas clear.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever find out exactly what they were for,” said Homicide Detective Brent Taney. “It is kind of strange.”
But just how strange is in the eye of the beholder.