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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Joe Sommerlad

‘Heads, brains, skin and bones’: Everything we know about the Harvard Medical School body parts seller


“Some crimes defy understanding.”

That’s how US attorney Gerard M Karam summed up the ghoulish case of Cecil Lodge, the long-serving morgue manager of the prestigious Harvard Medical School (HMS), who, along with his wife Denise and five other people, has been charged with stealing and selling human remains donated to the facility and selling them on the black market.

“The theft and trafficking of human remains strikes at the very essence of what makes us human,” Mr Karam reflected.

“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.”

Mr Lodge, 55, was hired by the revered Ivy League institution in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1995 but was fired on 6 May this year for allegedly stealing “heads, brains, skin and bones” from cadavers between 2018 and 2022 and selling them on to interested buyers, some of whom were seemingly allowed to tour the morgue to peruse which body parts they might like to acquire.

Mr Lodge and his wife, 63, were arrested on Wednesday along with Katrina Maclean, 44, of Salem, Massachusetts – who owns a store in nearby Peabody called Kat’s Creepy Creations that specialises in “creepy dolls, oddities” and “bone art” – Joshua Taylor, 46, of West Lawn, Pennsylvania, and Mathew Lampi, 52, of East Bethel, Minnesota

The defendants in the case face a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment on charges of conspiracy and interstate transport of stolen goods.

Two other people, Jeremy Pauley of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and Candace Chapman Scott of Little Rock, Arkansas, were previously indicted for buying and selling stolen body parts intended for cremation and pleaded not guilty.

Jeremy Pauley’s police mugshot (East Pennsboro Township Police Department)

Ms Maclean is accused of selling remains stolen by Mr Lodge to other buyers in multiple states, including to Mr Pauley, to whom she allegedly shipped a package of human skin in 2021 having “engaged his services to tan the skin to create leather”, after which he sent it back to her, according to The New York Times.

According to the federal indictment, Cecil Lodge would spirit the dissected body parts away from the HMS morgue and store them at his home in Goffstown, New Hampshire.

He and his wife would then sell them as part of a national network of traffickers trading in human remains, conducting transactions on Facebook and PayPal and cheerily making use of the US Postal Service, as though they were shipping collectible Beanie Babies.

“Head number 7” read one chillingly matter-of-fact PayPal description for one of these transactions, worth $1,000, according to the charging document.

Bodies are routinely donated to HMS under its “Anatomical Gifts Program” by people who prefer the idea of leaving their earthly remains to science rather than be buried in a cemetery plot or cremated – on the strict understanding that they will be used for educational, teaching or research purposes only – before they are finally laid to rest in a respectful manner in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

In response to the indictment and arrest of Lodge and his alleged accomplices, the deans of Harvard University’s faculty of medicine and of HMS’s department of medical education, George Q Daley and Edward M Hundert, issued a statement on Wednesday labelling the conduct they stand accused of “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,” they 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.”

Sarah Hill, who donated her aunt’s body to Harvard Medical School (Boston 25 News)

Among those to have come forward to express their horror has been Sarah Hill, whose beloved aunt Christine Eppich donated her body to HMS as part of the program following her death from pancreatic cancer in March 2021.

Ms Hill said she had called the 24-hour hotline set up by the HMS to answer relatives’ concerns when the news of Lodge’s arrest broke and said she felt “sick” when she was informed that her aunt’s name was on the institution’s “potentially affected list”.

“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,” Ms Hill told Boston 25 News.

“And we as family members gave her body to Harvard thinking that she was in the best hands possible.”

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