By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
The plunder of bodies from Harvard Medical School's morgue earlier this year has led to the arrest of another person.
Within weeks of the arrest of Cedric Lodge in June, 2023, the one-time manager of the Harvard Medical School’s Anatomical Gift Program, a lengthy title for the morgue, police arrested James Nott.
FBI agents searched the home of 40-year-old Nott, located in Mount Washington, Kentucky where they found 40 human skulls, spinal cords, femurs and hip bones.
In an abundance of precaution, they asked him if anyone else was in the home. His response of, "only my dead friends," was quite unexpected.
The agents found a skull on Nott's bed, and another wrapped in a head scarf. Others were positioned as decorations around his home. They also found a Harvard Medical School bag.
The complaint against Nott listed where he purchased human body parts from abroad, and then resold them in the United States.
In homage to the famous 19th century body snatcher William Burke, Nott used this pseudonym as his Facebook identity. This was the platform he used to describe and sell the body parts.
Nott was only charged with alleged gun possession, which as a felon he is not allowed to have. There are no federal laws that prohibit owning human bones, and in some states there are certain restriction on sending and owning human bones. Nott seemed to be aware of this, because in his Facebook post promoting bones that were for sale, he noted they could not be shipped to Tennessee, Louisiana or Georgia.
In December 2023, he pled guilty to illegal possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He could face up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years supervised release.
Nott traded in body parts with Jeremy Pauley, the owner of the Memento Mori Museum. Pauley was arrested recently as part of the network that bought and sold body parts and bones, many of them sourced from morgues.
Ironically the tip to the authorities of the buying and selling of human body parts came from Jeremy Pauley's ex-wife. When authorities searched Pauley's home they found human organs and skin in 5-gallon buckets, along with two human brains, two lungs, a heart, two livers and a skull with hair.
One of Pauley's customers was Matthew Lampi, 52, a tattooist from Minnesota who owned Get to the Point Tattoos. The pair transacted over $100,000 in online payments for body parts or bones. In 2008, in an interview with Big Tattoo Planet, Lampi spoke about his collection.
"My mind never relaxes. I am always in a constant state of flux. When I am not tattooing or designing, I collect items. My collection consists of several tantric Kampala's, human skulls, a mortician's make-up kit (previously used of course) and a customer's toe."
Lampi was indicted in June, 2023, on federal charges for selling and buying human remains.
On February, 27, 2022, Lampi agreed to buy a stillborn boy from Pauley. The child was to be cremated, and instead was sold by an Arkansas mortuary worker to Pauley for $300. Pauley traded the baby's remains, and $1,500 in exchange for five skulls from Lampi. In June, 2022, Pauley sold Lampi a pair of "smoker's lungs" for $1,900.
Present-day numerous families have joined a class-action lawsuit against Harvard as a result of the investigation of the stolen body parts.
The lawsuit states, “Harvard abandoned the remains in a facility that was a place of freakish desecration, where, according to the indictments, criminals were allowed to roam and pick over loved ones’ remains for bits like trinkets at a flea market."
Body parts are not only sourced inside the United States.
In November, 2014, three parcels bound for the U.S. from Bangkok were x-rayed, and inside were found five preserved human parts, which included an infant's head, a baby's foot and an adult heart. They were labeled as toys.
DHL the shipping company identified the sender as Ryan McPherson, 31, an American tourist who told authorities he found the creepy items at a Bangkok night market. He was quoted as saying he thought they were bizarre and he was sending them to his friend Eugene Johnson in the states, however one of the packages was addressed to himself.
It turned out they were stolen from the medical museum of one of Bangkok's biggest hospitals. A dean at the hospital said the two Americans were filmed on closed-circuit TV when they visited the museum a few days before the discovery. However they did not take anything.
The Head of Department of Forensic Medicine at Chulalongkorn University said it was possible the parts were taken from murder victims, since they had wounds, including a hole through the adult heart, and a stab wound in one of the tattooed strips of skin. These section of human skin were decorated with ancient tattoos believed to bring invincibility.
McPherson and Daniel Tanner, 33, were set free after being questioned by police, after which they promptly escaped to Cambodia.
In 2003, McPherson produced a video series titled Bumfights. It featured homeless people fighting that he had paid to do so. It enraged activists, and ultimately McPherson was fined $500 and had to serve community hours at a homeless shelter.
What plans McPherson and Tanner had for the body parts remains unknown.
In 2008, Michael Mastromarino pled guilty to stealing body parts. His scheme involved harvesting bone fragments and flesh from bodies at funeral homes without the knowledge of the victims' families. He would sell them without inspection for disease, and some were used in transplants and medical research. Several funeral home directors also pleaded guilty to the roles in the the enterprise.
After losing his dental license in 2000 for testing positive for narcotics he opened Bio Medical Tissue Services which prospered. It became a multimillion dollar operation selling stolen body parts for transplants and research, but it was eventually closed once it was found to be a "human chop shop".
Corpses taken from different funeral homes were chopped up and sold to medical facilities across the United States. One of the bodies sold was that of Alistair Cooke, the former host of "Masterpiece Theater" on PBS.
Bobi Milner, 41, had surgery in 2005 to treat degenerative disc disease in her cervical spine. She later learned her bone graft was possibly taken from Alistair Cooke, who died aged 95 of cancer in March 2004. Mr. Cooke was too old and sick to be an acceptable candidate for tissue harvesting. It turned out the permission paperwork for Mr. Cooke had been forged.
Mastromarino died in July 2013, from cancer while serving a 30 year sentence. He was 49 years old.
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