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Several people stole and sold human remains, including brains and skin, from Harvard Medical School’s morgue, federal prosecutors say.
A grand jury has indicted Cedric Lodge, 55, the morgue manager, and his wife, in the criminal plot, which lasted from 2018 to earlier this year, according to the complaint.
The federal complaint was filed in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where one of the defendants lives.
Lodge allegedly allowed buyers to come into the morgue and pick and choose what remains they wanted to buy. He himself also allegedly stole parts of donated cadavers including brains, skin, and bones, took them home to his New Hampshire residence, and shipped them to buyers by mail.
Six people, Lodge’s wife Denise Lodge, Katrina Maclean, Joshua Taylor, Mathew Lampi, Jeremy Pauley, and a mortician from Arkansas have all been charged in the scheme.
All six are charged by a federal grand jury with conspiracy and transporting stolen goods across state lines.
They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
The details of the alleged black market are gruesome.
MacLean allegedly paid $600 for two desiccated faces from the morgue in 2020. MacLean also allegedly sent human skin to Pauley.
Pauley, meanwhile, is accused of buying the remains of two stillborn babies from a mortuary employee in Arkansas.
Taylor allegedly sent Denise Lodge $200 with a memo reading “braiiiiiins.” Taylor allegedly paid a total of over $37,000 for human remains.
One of the defendants runs a store called Kat’s Creepy Creations in Peabody, Massachusetts. The FBI searched the store in March.
“If you’re in the market for human bones hit me up!” one post from the Kat’s Creepy Creations Instagram page read.
“Some crimes defy understanding,” U.S. Attorney Gerard Karam said in a statement. “The theft and trafficking of human remains strikes at the very essence of what makes us human. It is particularly egregious that so many of the victims here volunteered to allow their remains to be used to educate medical professionals and advance the interests of science and healing. For them and their families to be taken advantage of in the name of profit is appalling.”
Harvard Medical School was not complicit with the scheme, the U.S. attorney suggested, saying he appreciated their cooperation with the federal investigation.
Lodge was fired on May 6, Harvard Medical’s deans said.
“We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others. The reported incidents are a betrayal of HMS and, most importantly, each of the individuals who altruistically chose to will their bodies to HMS through the Anatomical Gift Program to advance medical education and research,” Harvard Medical’s dean of faculty and dean for medical education said in a joint statement.
“We are so very sorry for the pain this news will cause for our anatomical donors’ families and loved ones, and HMS pledges to engage with them during this deeply distressing time,” the statement said.
Lodge had worked for Harvard Medical School for 28 years before he was fired.
His biography page, which is no longer available on Harvard Medical School’s website, previously said he had worked for the school’s Anatomical Gift Program since 1995.
Lodge was responsible for “maintaining the anatomical morgue and teaching labs while working closely with HMS faculty and students,” his biography said.