An article in the Sacramento Bee reports that a former mortuary worker convicted of dismembering cadavers donated to the UCLA medical school and selling the body parts was sentenced to serve ten years in prison and pay more than $1.7 million in unpaid taxes, fines and restitution. Jurors in the California mortuary malpractice case found that Ernest Nelson, 51, was guilty of various crimes, including grand theft and tax evasion. The jury found that Nelson and Henry Reid, the former director of UCLA’s Willed Body Program, conspired to sell body parts from cadavers donated to the university for personal gain.
The prosecutor in the mortuary malpractice case-Deputy District Attorney Marisa Zarate-said that Reid was complicit in the crimes; Nelson was the person who walked into the freezers where the cadavers were stored, dismembered the bodies, packaged the parts and delivered them to buyers across the country. The buyers included hospitals and research firms. According to the investigation, Reid and Nelson’s scheme went undetected for five years and the pair pocketed $1.5 million from the scheme.
While there are no state or federal regulations regarding body parts, it is likely that California legislators will pass some in the very near future. The case drew international attention and the men committed mortuary malpractice on many occasions. When our loved ones pass on, we expect their bodies to be treated with respect by the people we entrust to prepare their bodies for burial or cremation. If a loved one’s body has been abused or misused in any way, the California funeral home abuse attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas may be able to hold those responsible for the abuse accountable for their actions and dissuade others from committing similar abuses.