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Crematorium owner pleads guilty

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Whatever happened to. . .that fellow who had human remains all over his property.

Not all that long ago, the grim news everyone was talking about involved a crematorium owner who failed to incinerate bodies. Instead, he stored them on the grounds of the crematorium. Residing in a small house surrounded by the dead did not seem to bother him. The man disappeared from the news after serving a few months in jail, receiving death threats and being sued by survivors of the improperly disposed of. This week, the young Georgian will take responsibility for his failure to carry out his duties.

The Macon Telegraph reports.

ATLANTA -When former crematory operator Ray Brent Marsh pleads guilty Friday to dumping 334 bodies and passing off cement dust as their ashes, the victims’ relatives and resident of a rural northwest Georgia community may still be left asking the question “Why?”

Two years after the crime in Noble, Ga., shocked the nation, determining a motive remains elusive, and without a trial the answer may never be known.

“You’re not ever going to learn what occurred and what motivated it unless sometime down into the future Mr. Marsh will speak up,” U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy told victims’ families at a hearing last month where a class-action civil lawsuit against Marsh was settled.

Marsh will reportedly be sentenced to 12 years in prison, with credit for time served, and, one assumes, good behavior. There are also charges pending against him in Tennessee.

During the coverage of the episode, I read several articles about his behavior before and after he took over his invalid father’s business. The symptoms described — lethargy, lack of affect, inattention to details — sounded like someone suffering from depression to me. Most people’s bouts of the blues result in low libido, indifference to others and/or unpaid bills, not human remains strewn around their homes. An aunt who agreed to talk to the press says she thinks Marsh is mentally ill.

A linebacker on the football team at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Marsh left school early in the mid-1990s to help run his ailing father’s Tri-State Crematory in Noble. Marsh would later take over the family business, something relatives say was not his first choice.

“I feel something went wrong with his mind because he was up and bold and popular on the campus and then pulled away from an institution and then got into an occupation that was solitary and depressing,” said his 79-year-old aunt, Lorene Marsh.

Marsh cremated 665 of 999 bodies he was responsible for. The rest were found haphazardly dumped various places on the family’s land.

I have mixed feelings when someone who is obviously seriously dysfunctional is treated as if he or she had the capacity to know right from wrong in civil and criminal cases. I think doing that ignores the reality of how the mind works and penalizes people for behavior they may not be able to control. One also has to consider the victims, of course. The fact the perpetrator did not intentionally do wrong does not mean the injury is any less real. Few defendants who plead not guilty by reason of insanity are successful in their defense. Jurors are skeptical or uncaring about their mental illness. However, I believe a judicial system that did not treat the mentally ill as if they are normal would be much more just. A person like Ray Brent Marsh needs treatment. Instead, he will be incarcerated. His mental problems will likely continue to fester.

Note 1: This entry also appeared at Silver Rights.

Note 2: Enjoy a mixed grille of fine blogging at Mac-a-ro-nies.

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  • wierd. Y’know, if i were a conspiracy theorist, i’d come up with something about the number of bodies he cremated, 665, being just 1 off the number of the devil
    i am surprised there hasn’t already been some crackpot theory printed – then again, i suppose there’s enough of them related to the “war on terror” to last the media awhile.