Cedric Lodge, the former manager of the Harvard Medical School morgue, and his wife Denise were among five people arrested on Wednesday in a case that’s sure to keep you up at night. Lodge has been accused of stealing human remains, including “heads, brains, skin and bones” from cadavers, and selling them on the black market to interested buyers.
The other defendants include Katrina Maclean, 44, the owner of a store in Peabody, Mass. called Kat’s Creepy Creations that specializes in “creepy dolls, oddities” and “bone art,” Joshua Taylor, 46, of West Lawn, Pennsylvania, and Mathew Lampi, 52, of East Bethel, Minnesota. They each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and interstate travel of stolen goods.
Two others, including Jeremy Pauley of Bloomberg, Pennsylvania, and Candace Chapman Scott of Little Rock, Arkansas, were also indicted for allegedly selling body parts intended for cremation but they both pleaded not guilty.
According to federal prosecutors, Lodge and his wife sold the body parts to buyers in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. They transferred them using USPS to people who wanted the parts for all kinds of reasons, including one person who intended to tan the skin into leather. The alleged crimes took place between 2018 and 2022.
Records show Lodge was first hired by Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. in 1995 and was fired on May 6 of this year. He allegedly even let some of his buyers tour the morgue so they could pick out which parts they wanted for themselves.
“Some crimes defy understanding,” U.S. attorney Gerard M. Karam stated when announcing the charges. “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.”
Store owner Katrina Mclean is accused of selling the remains, which were illegally obtained by Lodge, to other buyers, including Pauley, to whom she allegedly shipped a package of human skin in 2021 so he could “tan the skin to create leather” before shipping it back to her.
As for Lodge, he allegedly took the body parts out of the morgue and stored them in his home in Goffstown, New Hampshire. He and his wife then sent them out to buyers in neighboring states using transactions conducted on Facebook and PayPal, according to the charges filed in federal court. “Head number 7,” reads one payment description for roughly $1,000.
The body parts were being held at Harvard Medical School as part of the “Anatomical Gifts Program,” which collects human remains from people who agree to donate their bodies to science rather than being buried or cremated. However, the remains must be used for educational, teaching, or research purposes only before being laid to rest according to the family’s wishes.
George Q Daley and Edward M Hundert, the deans of Harvard’s faculty of medicine and Harvard Medical School’s department of medical education, issued a statement after the charges were announced calling the alleged scheme “an abhorrent betrayal.”
“We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus – a community dedicated to healing and serving others,” the two men wrote. “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.”
“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,” they added.
Sarah Hill, whose aunt Christine Eppich donated her body to science at HMS after she passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2021, expressed her outrage after the charges were announced. She called a 24-hour hotline set up by the university to answer questions about Lodge and the case and told the operator that she felt “sick” knowing that her aunt’s name was on the school’s list of potentially affected patients.
“Christine wanted other people to benefit from her passing so that she could be studied. So that the doctors of the future or tomorrow could study her body and find not only a cure for pancreatic cancer but for some other, you know, disease,” Hill told a local news outlet.
“And we as family members gave her body to Harvard thinking that she was in the best hands possible.”