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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: September 2023

Adventures in the Law: An Arm and a Leg

Norman Gardner Tabler Jr

Summary

  • A former manager of the morgue at Harvard University allegedly sold human body parts, including heads, brains, skin, and bones, without the knowledge of Harvard.
  • He, along with his wife Denise and accomplices, allegedly conducted this illegal trade by mailing these body parts to buyers across various states.
  • The indictment includes details of their transactions and payments through PayPal.
  • While they have been charged with conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen goods, the legality of stealing and selling human body parts itself is unclear.
Adventures in the Law: An Arm and a Leg
istockphoto.com/Bill Rice Photo

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You hear it all the time: “It cost an arm and a leg.” But does anyone really know the cost of an arm and a leg? Cedric Lodge does.

Cedric was manager of the morgue at Harvard University. Harvard maintains the morgue to store cadavers donated to its medical school for educational, teaching, and research purposes.

What happens to the cadavers after they’ve they’ve been used for those noble purposes? The established protocol calls for the remains to be sent to a crematorium in Roslindale, Massachusetts. From there, the remains are interred in a Tewksbury, Massachusetts, cemetery or returned to the decedent’s family.

But according to a federal indictment, what Harvard viewed as a respectful disposition process, Cedric saw as a waste of valuable commodities. Never one to tolerate unnecessary waste, he established his own disposition method: He sold the parts.

You read correctly: Cedric put human body parts up for sale. And it goes without saying that Cedric did not turn the proceeds over to Harvard. Indeed, he never allowed Harvard to know of his side hustle in the body parts business.

According to the indictment, Cedric’s process worked like this: He surreptitiously packed up dissected body parts (such as heads, brains, skin, and bones), before their scheduled cremation. He then took the parts along on his commute home to Goffstown, New Hampshire.

Cedric and wife Denise then utilized their cell phones and social media accounts to offer the wares for sale. (There’s no truth to the rumor that one ad read, “You Can Have a Harvard Brain!”) When they found a buyer, they shipped the parts by U.S. mail.

Customers included co-defendants Katrina MacLean and Joshua Taylor. Like Cedric and Denise, Katrina and Josh were in it for the money. They were middlemen (middlepersons?), who resold the parts, shipping them to buyers in various states. Katrina, the indictment tells us, ran her parts business under the brand name Kat’s Creepy Creations.

That name is somewhat misleading, as Katrina didn’t normally create the products, instead selling the parts in the same condition as she acquired them. But the indictment does cite one instance when her creativity was on display. She shipped human skin from Massachusetts to Jeremy Pauley in Pennsylvania, where he tanned it, turning it into leather. Leather! Pleased with the result, Katrina compensated Jeremey with— what else? —skin.

Special customers merit special treatment. For Katrina and Josh, that meant private viewings. Katrina and Josh were welcomed into the morgue and allowed to pick and choose from Cedric’s grisly inventory.

On one occasion, Cedric and Katrina met in person for the sale and purchase of two faces--faces!--giving new meaning to the term face-to-face transaction.

Katrina’s transfer of human skin to compensate Jeremy for his work was an exception. Most transactions were compensated through PayPal payments that were meticulously documented. During a three-year period, Josh made 39 PayPal payments of over $35,000 to Denise, one recorded as “head number 7,” another as “braiiiiiins [sic and sick].” Jeremy made 25 PayPal payments to Josh totaling over $40,000.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania has indicted Cedric, Denise, Katrina, and Josh. Have they been charged with stealing human body parts?  No. It’s It’s not even clear that stealing and selling body parts is itself a federal crime.

Instead, Cedric has been charged with conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen goods, Denise, Katrina, and Jeremy with conspiracy and aiding and abetting interstate transportation of stolen goods. Wags say that when his attorney said a defense would cost an arm and a leg, Cedric responded, “Fine. Where should I ship them?”

The case is United States v. Lodge et al., M.D. Penn.

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