By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Julie Mott's body disappeared in August, 2015. It was given to the Mission Park Funeral Home, and what happened to it is still a mystery.
Julie died on August 8, from cystic fibrosis. Her family attended services at Mission Park Funeral Home on August 15, which was her 26th birthday. The day of the service, her family left except Bill Wilburn, her ex-boyfriend who stayed behind for 15 minutes. The employees escorted him to the door, and they left soon after, activating the alarm system on the way out.
The next morning Julie's casket was empty. It had a damaged hinge, but police could not find any evidence of forced entry into the building. The alarm had not been triggered either. Julie's body was scheduled to be cremated. The premises had no surveillance cameras, making it difficult for police to determine whether multiple individuals were involved.
Suspicion fell immediately on Wilburn, who was said to have been obsessed with Julie, even though their relationship had ended two years before. They had dated for 6 years.
A reward for $20,000 was offered, and despite an investigation by the San Antonio police, she has not been found.
Court documents found a business relationship between the funeral home and Beyer & Beitel, a subcontractor. Mission Park initially denied using subcontractors to embalm or transport bodies, but eventually they admitted to using them for several years.
Beyer & Beitel had keys and the alarm codes to the funeral home in order to deliver, or pick up bodies after hours. After this was exposed the funeral home limited access to their facility, only when their personnel was onsite.
Shortly before the disappearance of Julie Mott's body, Beyer and Beitel was named in another lawsuit regarding the mishandling of a body. Its parent company MPII, Inc. had been sued for "damages and breach of contract" a dozen times in the past 17 years.
Wilburn continued with his odd behavior. In February, 2016, the family reported to the police that he would call and ask about updates on the search for Julie's body. Four months later, he violated a trespass order at the funeral home several times. He was seen on security camera footage driving repeatedly around the building, looking through windows, shaking door knobs and staring right into the cameras. He was arrested twice and charged with trespassing.
In February, 2018, a jury awarded $8 million to Julie's parents over the loss of their daughter's body by Mission Park Funeral Home. They were accused of negligence and gross negligence; they in turn accused Bill Wilburn of stealing the body. During the jury trial, it was revealed that the alarm code for the buildings hadn’t been changed in 20 years, and that nearly two dozen people knew the access code.
During court proceedings a security expert testified that the security system could be easily manipulated, by placing an object on the door's alarm plunger to simulate that the system was still engaged, which is why it appeared the alarm did not go off.
During the civil trial against Beyer & Beitel Mortuary Services, an attorney asked Frederick Beyer the owner about Nicholas Moreno one of his employees. The Motz family attorney brought up allegations of satanism related to Moreno, his band Flesh Hoarder and disturbing images posted on his Facebook profile that could be construed as demonic and satanic.
Mr. Beyer said Moreno had worked for the funeral home as a driver for five years. He was considered a good employee. He denied that Moreno had any contact with Julie Mott's body.
"He’s testified he’s into Satan," Alex Katzman, an attorney representing the Mott family, said in court. "Did you know that?"
"No," said Frederick Beyer, "I didn’t know anything about satan."
Julie's body has never been recovered, even though her family offered a reward in order to identify who took her.
This would not be the last time the Mission Park funeral home faced a SNAFU when it comes to bodies left in their care. In November, 2020, Mary Lou Salinas and Catalina Cervantes died within days of each other. Both were sent to the funeral home who were to arrange their burial.
On November 24, during the funeral service Cervantes' family told the director the body in the casket, "did not look good." They had not seen her for a month, and after she was embalmed she was kept in storage for two weeks, which is why the family thought she looked different.
Two weeks later, Salinas's service was held. The family told the funeral staff the woman in the casket was a stranger. They were informed at that time that Mary Lou Salinas had been buried by mistake a few days before, but they should continue with the service since family and friends were already at the funeral home,
Salinas was exhumed and identified by her family, which confirmed that the bodies had been swapped and buried under the wrong name.
As morbid as it sounds, there is a monetary reason why Julie's body might have been stolen, and it's the greatest motivator of all: money.
On June 14, 2023, Cedric Lodge the morgue manager who worked at Harvard Medical School since 1995, was indicted. He is facing federal charges of selling heads, brains, skin and other body parts. These were taken from cadavers donated to Harvard Medical School for research and education. Harvard fired him on May 6, 2023, and he is waiting to go to trial in April, 2024.
Part of the investigation included workers in different mortuaries who were selling bodies, which were supposed to be cremated either after the medical school used them, or if this was the final disposition by the family after death; as was the case with Julie.
There are other persons who collect human body parts or bones to include in their macabre collection. One of them is Jeremy Pauley who owns the Memento Mori Museum. Pauley, who was a purchaser in the criminal scheme, pled guilty to his charges and admitted to his role in a nationwide network of individuals who bought and sold human remains stolen from HMS, and an Arkansas mortuary. The press release also stated that five other individuals, including Lodge, are pending trial.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Author, Narrator and Producer