Crematory Operator Charged With Abuse of Corpse in Tennessee

The operator of a Georgia crematory where hundreds of bodies were found discarded last month was charged in Tennessee on Monday with six felony counts of abuse of a corpse.

Ray Brent Marsh, operator of the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Ga., is in custody in Walker County, Ga., already was charged with 174 counts of theft by deception in Georgia.

The charges filed Monday in Bradley County are the first brought against Marsh by another jurisdiction.

Each count, which carries up to two years in prision on conviction, was for a Bradley County corpse taken to Marsh's crematory. Authorities did not reveal the names of the dead.

Investigators have recovered 339 bodies since Feb. 15 on the Marsh family's 16 acres behind the crematory. So far, 109 bodies have been identified.

County records show that at least 250 bodies sent to the crematory since 1998 were from Tennessee.

Bradley County Sheriff Dan Gilley said Marsh traveled the 50 miles from Noble to Cleveland to pick up bodies for cremation under contract from Bradley County funeral homes.

Gilley said once Marsh took the bodies back to Georgia he mistreated and disposed of the bodies in violation of Tennessee law, "and in a manner which is offensive to the sensibilities of ordinary people."

Gilley said more charges are expected. He said he will go before the grand jury on Wednesday.

Marsh, 28, took over the crematory business from his father in 1996.

Investigators were tipped that Marsh was disposing of the bodies rather than cremating them, as he was paid to do.

On Friday, Marsh's parents, Ray and Clara Marsh, and sister were arrested, each charged with misrepresenting themselves as licensed funeral directors by signing death certificates in Georgia. They were released on bail.

Marsh's sister, Rhames LaShea Marsh, 32, works as an embalmer and funeral director at Franklin-Strickland Funeral Home in Chattanooga. She has been licensed in Tennessee since June.

Georgia authorities have said they expect to file more charges against Marsh.

Several lawsuits have already been filed against Marsh and funeral homes in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama that contracted with him.