Woman to Detroit-area body parts broker: ‘Burn in hell’

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Prosecutors are seeking a 14-year prison sentence for Arthur Rathburn of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich. convicted of dealing diseased body parts for medical training. | Detroit Free Press file photo via AP

DETROIT — A Detroit-area man who made money by supplying diseased body parts for medical training sometimes peddled them twice and sent the decedent’s family a different set of cremated remains, an FBI agent testified Monday.

Arthur Rathburn faces sentencing for fraud and shipping hazardous material.

The sale of human remains is unusual but mostly legal, especially when body parts are used for medical training. But Rathburn was convicted in January of failing to disclose to professional associations that bodies had tested positive for disease, such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a 14-year prison term. The hearing began Monday and will resume Tuesday.

FBI agent Paul Johnson explained to a judge that Rathburn acquired cadavers from Biological Resource Center in Illinois and then made parts available for medical training.

Johnson said Rathburn later was supposed to cremate the bodies and turn the remains over to families. But the agent said Rathburn’s employees told him that families sometimes got “something else” if parts were still valuable.

Tracy Smolka of Kankakee, Illinois, was allowed to speak in court as a victim. Her father died in 2010 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and his body was supposed to be used for research before cremation.

Randolph Wright’s body didn’t have infectious diseases. But Smolka said she had no idea that his head was sold to Rathburn for $500 until investigators found it while searching a warehouse.

She called it “vile, disgusting and reprehensible.”

“You can burn in hell,” Smolka told Rathburn.

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