ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Police in Albuquerque arrested a businessman on fraud charges in a gruesome case in which body parts that were supposed to be cremated and returned to families turned up in plastic bins in a delivery truck in Kansas.
Albuquerque police on Thursday identified two men and a woman whose remains were discovered among six heads and numerous other human body parts in the truck at a Kansas medical waste facility. Bio Care Southwest owner Paul Montano, 31, was arrested late Wednesday at his office on three counts of fraud and was being held on $100,000 bond.
Sealed plastic bags containing the heads and body parts - apparently dismembered with a chain saw or other coarse cutting instrument - were found last week in 12 large red plastic tubs inside a delivery truck at a Stericycle Inc. facility in Kansas City, Kan. The tubs had shipping labels from The Learning Center, which is affiliated with Bio Care.
Bio Care receives donated bodies and harvests organs and other parts, which it sells for medical research. Bodies are stored in refrigerated units until donated organs are returned, then Bio Care sends the remains for cremation and gives the ashes to the families, according to the affidavit. The company has a contract with Stericycle to dispose of any leftover medical waste.
Authorities there said Stericycle disposes of waste such as operating room debris or syringes but doesn't incinerate major body parts.
Montano said Tuesday his company wasn't involved in the body parts found in Kansas. He did not return several messages left by The Associated Press on Wednesday, and the main telephone number that had been listed on the company's Web site had been disconnected.
After his 83-year-old father died of a stroke in September, Chuck Hines of Bosque Farms, N.M., entrusted Bio Care to harvest his organs for science and research. They sent back a sealed box with what Hines was told were all his father's cremated remains.
Hines memorialized his father at a simple gathering of friends at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, an event the elder Hines helped organize decades ago.
But Hines found out late Wednesday that some of his father's remains were found in the delivery truck.
"You know, you get a box of ashes, you don't know if it's all there. You assume it is," Hines said Wednesday, before police say they told him his father's remains were found. Hines didn't respond to phone messages left Thursday.
Robert Noblin, owner of Riverside Funeral Home in Belen, N.M., where Hines learned about Bio Care, said he could not comment at length about the matter because of the investigation.
But he said his company had worked with Bio Care before.
"Unfortunately, I think many funeral homes and families alike have been misled," Noblin said.
Police also identified the remains of Jacqueline Marie Snyder, 42, of Albuquerque, who died of a methadone overdose, and Harold Dillard, whose hometown and cause of death weren't given.
Snyder's remains were identified through a tag that shows her body went to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator for an autopsy on Nov. 1, said Amy Boule of the office. The body was turned over to a funeral home on Nov. 3.
The affidavit said Kansas City homicide detectives called Albuquerque police March 20, March 21 and March 26 about containers with body parts from the Learning Center. The affidavit said all the bodies appeared to have been dismembered by a coarse cutting instrument such as a chain saw.
Montano denied dismembering any of the bodies, the affidavit said.
The New Mexico Attorney General's Office received a complaint from an Albuquerque woman about Bio Care late Wednesday, said a spokesman for that office, Phil Sisneros. He said he could not release details pending evaluation of the complaint.
Wyandotte County, Kan., coroner Alan C. Hancock said Tuesday that Stericycle employees first became concerned a few weeks ago when they found a head in their incineration facility. Stericycle told investigators shipments from the Learning Center have been getting increasingly larger in the past several months, the arrest warrant affidavit said.
Montano agreed to provide paperwork to the Kansas coroner's office in connection with the remains discovered there, police spokeswoman Nadine Hamby said Wednesday afternoon.
"The big question and concern is, my loved one that Bio Care gave me in my urn, is that my loved one or not?" she said.