LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – WHAT HAPPENED?
Federal investigators uncovered a trade in human remains linked to Harvard Medical School and arrested people in several states. Prosecutors say the defendants were part of a nationwide network of people who bought and sold remains stolen from the medical school and an Arkansas morgue. One of the defendants, Cedric Lodge, 55, of New Hampshire, allegedly took dissected parts of corpses that were donated to Harvard as part of a scheme that began in 2018, prosecutors said. Another person facing criminal charges, Katrina Maclean of Salem, Massachusetts, owned a store that sold “mind-shocking creations” as well as “creepy dolls, oddities and bone art”, according to the store’s social media page.
WHO FACES CHARGES?
The indictment charges Lodge; his wife, Denise; Maclean; Joshua Taylor, of West Lawn, Pennsylvania; and Mathew Lampi, of East Bethel, Minnesota, for conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. Authorities were first notified of the nationwide network following the arrest of Jeremy Lee Pauley, who was charged with abusing a corpse, receiving stolen property and other state charges in Pennsylvania in July 2022. Police say Pauley allegedly attempted to purchase stolen human remains from an Arkansas woman for possible resale on Facebook. An FBI affidavit in a Kentucky case last week said Pauley purchased hearts, brains, lungs and two fetal specimens from the Arkansas woman, who allegedly removed them from a morgue.
WHAT HAPPENED IN KENTUCKY?
Last week, federal officials charged a Kentucky man who communicated with Pauley on Facebook about selling skulls and spines. Investigators said in an affidavit that James Nott had “40 human skulls, spinal cords, femurs and hip bones” in his home during a search of his apartment in Mount Washington, Ky., on Tuesday. They found a skull wrapped in a scarf and another on the bed where Nott was sleeping, along with a Harvard medical school bag. During the search, an FBI agent asked Nott if anyone else was at the residence. He replied, “Only my dead friends.” Nott also had several guns and ammunition in the apartment about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Louisville. Nott has been charged by federal investigators with unlawful possession of a firearm.
LAWS REGARDING HUMAN REMAINS
There are no federal criminal laws that deal with the mishandling or sale of human remains, and in most states the sale of human remains is not illegal, said Tanya D. Marsh, professor in law at Wake Forest University who has written books on cemetery and human remains law. Marsh said there is an extensive market for human remains “and it’s not expressly legal, but in many states it’s also not expressly illegal.” She calls it a “gray market”. There are laws in many states against grave robbing, but “the vast majority of states have no laws regarding unburied human remains,” Marsh said.
Medical schools like Harvard receive bodies donated after a person chooses to offer their remains upon death. After bodies are used for research or teaching, some schools may offer to return the cremated remains to family or bury them in a cemetery, Marsh said. Lodge, who was charged in the scheme, was a former mortuary director at Harvard Medical School. He took the body parts from the Harvard morgue without the knowledge or permission of the school, federal prosecutors said. The body parts in Pauley’s case were originally donated to the University of Arkansas for medical research. They ended up being stolen from a morgue where they were to be cremated, authorities said.