For nearly three years, Philadelphia Police crime scene investigator John Taggart has remained silent about what he saw after stepping inside Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s two homes and West Philadelphia clinic -- nicknamed the “House of Horrors.”
Now that the former Philadelphia abortion doctor has been sentenced to life in prison and the case's gag order lifted, Taggart is speaking out about what he found.
Taggart and his team began searching Gosnell’s properties for fetal remains in February 2010 following an FBI raid of the doctor’s West Philadelphia clinic, the Women’s Medical Society.
Inside Gosnell’s West Philadelphia home, the doctor spared no expense on high-end appliances, large flat-screen TVs and a piano, but Taggart says the 72-year-old surrounded himself with filth.
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“He just lived in squalor,” said Taggart. “He would leave plates of food on the floor. There was stuff everywhere in the bedroom. You couldn’t see the bed.”
Gosnell sat at the piano and played Chopin as police donned bio-hazard suits to investigate the contents of his home’s basement.
“As soon as they went down into the basement, they were covered in fleas,” Taggart said. “He actually gave us a bottle of flea repellent and said, ‘See what a nice guy I am? I told you there were fleas in the basement.’ He said ‘I didn’t have to tell ya’s’”
Investigators also visited Gosnell’s shore home in Brigantine, N.J. Taggart says the home was not well-kept, but that the property was “beautiful.”
“It backed up to the bay, he had a beautiful like four-slip boat slip,” he said.
The Philadelphia Police Crime Scene Unit traveled down the Atlantic City Expressway to search for the remains of unaccounted fetuses.
“We went down there because we thought maybe some of the babies were thrown into the bay,” he said. “There’s a lot of babies that are still unaccounted for that we don’t know where they’re at.”
The team ventured into the bay and pulled up several crab traps owned by Gosnell to see if there were remains inside. However, nothing was found. New Jersey authorities also sent a dive team into the bay before Taggart’s search and were unable to locate any remains.
“I believe they are either buried out there or I don’t know where they are. We’ve looked, we’ve looked for three years,” he said.
Taggart also recounted his time inside the Women’s Medical Society, calling the clinic, located at 3801 Lancaster Avenue, unforgettable.
“The smells were just unbearable,” he said. “You could tell there was death somewhere.”
Taggart found dead babies stuffed inside a refrigerator. But it’s what he and other officials found as they searched room-by -room that he says will be forever burned into his memory.
“Opening up the cabinet and seeing all the feet,” he said. “I’ll remember that for a long time.”
Those feet were severed from babies following abortion procedures. Prosecutors say Gosnell would deliver some babies alive, despite giving them medication in utero meant to stop their heart. The doctor and his staff would then snip their necks with scissors to ensure death.
Investigators said baby body parts would clog toilets after women delivered them in stalls inside the clinic. But for the first time, Taggart describes how remains were uncovered in the break room sink.
“They were shoving body parts down the garbage disposal,” said Taggart. “To the point where they plunged it one day and an arm popped out on Lancaster Avenue.”
The clinic, though not opened, still stands today.
Gosnell, who was found guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies, was given two consecutive life sentences in two of those verdicts. He struck a deal to avoid the death penalty by giving up his right to an appeal.
On Wednesday, Gosnell was sentenced to a third consecutive life sentence for the murder of the third baby. He also was given an additional two and a half to five consecutive years in the involuntary manslaughter death of former patient Karnamaya Mongar. The attorney for Mongar's family says they plan on suing both Gosnell and the City of Philadelphia.
Gosnell was also sentenced to concurrent sentences for 229 violations of Pennsylvania abortion regulations, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
The former doctor will plead guilty to federal charges related to illegal narcotics distribution. He's expected to be sentenced for those crimes next week.
For extensive coverage of the "House of Horrors" Abortion Doctor Trial, click here to visit our dedicated section on the case.