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Federal Authorities Uncover Human Remains Trafficking Linked to Harvard Medical School: Here’s What You Need to Know

by Ethan Kim
4 comments
Human Remains Trafficking

THE BACKGROUND

Federal agents have unraveled a disturbing trade involving human remains with connections to Harvard Medical School, leading to numerous arrests across different states. The accused individuals were reportedly part of an extensive network involved in the purchase and sale of stolen remains from both the medical school and an Arkansas mortuary, according to prosecutors. Cedric Lodge, a 55-year-old resident of New Hampshire, was among those charged; he is accused of illegally acquiring dissected cadaver parts that had been donated to Harvard, in a scheme that allegedly commenced in 2018. Another individual facing legal action, Katrina Maclean of Salem, Massachusetts, runs a shop selling “mind-boggling creations,” inclusive of “creepy dolls, oddities, and bone art,” as per the store’s social media page.

WHO HAS BEEN CHARGED?

Lodge, his wife Denise, Maclean, Joshua Taylor of West Lawn, Pennsylvania, and Mathew Lampi of East Bethel, Minnesota, are all facing indictment for conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen goods. The authorities were alerted about this extensive network after the arrest of Jeremy Lee Pauley in Pennsylvania in July 2022, who faced charges including abuse of a corpse, receiving stolen property, among other state-level charges. Pauley is alleged to have tried to purchase stolen human remains from an Arkansas woman with a possible intention of reselling them on Facebook. An FBI affidavit stated last week that Pauley procured hearts, brains, lungs, and two fetal specimens from this woman, who is believed to have taken these from a mortuary.

In a related development, federal agents charged a Kentucky man last week, who had been communicating with Pauley via Facebook about selling skulls and spines. According to an affidavit, James Nott had “40 human skulls, spinal cords, femurs, and hip bones” in his Mount Washington, Kentucky, apartment, where a search also revealed a skull wrapped in a headscarf and another on Nott’s bed. Alongside these, agents found a Harvard Medical School bag. When questioned if anyone else was present in the residence, Nott responded, “only my dead friends.” Authorities also discovered multiple firearms and ammunition at the apartment situated about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Louisville. Federal investigators have subsequently charged Nott with illegal possession of a firearm.

THE LEGALITY OF HUMAN REMAINS TRADE

Tanya D. Marsh, a law professor at Wake Forest University and author of books about cemetery and human remains law, explains that there are no federal criminal laws addressing the mishandling or selling of human remains. The trade of human remains isn’t illegal in most states. Marsh acknowledges a prevalent market for human remains, terming it a “gray market.” While laws against grave robbing exist in many states, “the vast majority of states don’t have any law that has to do with human remains that haven’t been buried yet,” Marsh added.

THE ORIGIN OF THE REMAINS

Medical institutions such as Harvard often receive donated bodies when an individual decides to donate their remains for research or education after their death. Some of these schools may offer to return the cremated remains to the family or bury them in a cemetery after their use, according to Marsh. Lodge, one of those charged, had worked as a manager at the Harvard Medical School morgue and is alleged to have removed the body parts from Harvard’s morgue without permission. The remains involved in Pauley’s case were initially donated to the University of Arkansas for medical research, but were eventually stolen from a mortuary where they were supposed to be cremated, say the authorities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Human Remains Trafficking

Who is involved in the human remains trade?

Individuals involved in the human remains trade include Cedric Lodge and his wife Denise from New Hampshire, Katrina Maclean from Massachusetts, Joshua Taylor from Pennsylvania, and Mathew Lampi from Minnesota. Jeremy Lee Pauley from Pennsylvania and James Nott from Kentucky are also linked to the case.

What is the connection to Harvard Medical School?

The connection to Harvard Medical School is Cedric Lodge, a former manager at the Harvard Medical School morgue, who is accused of taking dissected parts of cadavers donated to Harvard without permission or knowledge of the school.

What charges are the individuals facing?

The individuals are facing charges of conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods. In addition, James Nott has been charged with illegally possessing a firearm.

What laws are in place regarding the trade of human remains?

There are no specific federal criminal statutes that address the mishandling or sale of human remains. Most states do not have laws against the sale of human remains. However, there are laws against grave robbing in many states.

Where did the human remains come from?

The human remains came from bodies that were donated for research or education to medical schools like Harvard and the University of Arkansas. Some of the remains were stolen from a mortuary where they were supposed to be cremated.

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4 comments

CindyL July 17, 2023 - 4:36 am

this just shows how much our society needs a rethink of its values. like seriously, we need to do better.

Reply
Alice1994 July 17, 2023 - 7:06 am

Really shocked to read this, always thought Harvard was above board, didn’t expect them to get caught up in something so macabre…

Reply
Steve_W July 17, 2023 - 11:01 am

All this talk bout laws, but where’s the basic human decency? These are people’s bodies we’re talkin bout, not some commodity for sale!!

Reply
John Doe July 17, 2023 - 1:54 pm

This is unbelievable. can’t get my head around why people would get into this kinda business. smh!

Reply

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