SEABROOK, N.H. – The crematorium where a decomposing corpse sat for a week apparently used a Dumpster to dispose of pacemakers, replacement hips and other metallic implants, a prosecutor said Thursday.
In addition to the body of the unidentified woman, investigators searching the Bayview Crematorium (search) found the remains "of more than one person" in a single oven after it cooled down Wednesday, Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams said at a news conference.
"There's nothing in New Hampshire law that forbids that, but the ethics and morality of that are appalling at best," Reams said.
Reams said state regulation of crematoriums is so weak he wouldn't be surprised if Bayview was not an isolated case in being able to operate unlicensed and uninspected for six years.
"Given the manner in which the law is written, there is no reason to believe there aren't others," he said.
As Reams and other officials were speaking in Seabrook, Gov. John Lynch (search) announced that a special task force would start studying state regulation of crematoriums beginning on Friday.
"Families coping with the loss of a loved one should know that their family members will be treated with respect and dignity," said Lynch, who took office last month. He said he is "deeply disturbed."
Prosecutors heard about Bayview while interviewing funeral home personnel in an investigation of an assistant county medical examiner. When police were turned away last week, prosecutors got a search warrant.
Reams said the business' owner is vacationing in Florida but is aware of the investigation. He said he plans to file misdemeanor charges.
He said foul play is not suspected in the death of the woman, who apparently was in her 50s. Her body was found in a broken refrigeration unit. An autopsy was being conducted to help determine her identify, but Reams said there were no leads.
He said a medical examiner estimated the body had been in the broken cooler, where the temperature was 78 degrees, for seven to 10 days.
The state Department of Health and Human Services regulates and inspects crematoriums. As of Thursday afternoon, a spokesman had not returned a call placed in the morning seeking comment.
Reams said state law gives the department authority to issue detailed rules, but, "as we stand here today, none of those rules have been issued."
Asked if the department should shoulder at least partial blame for the situation, he said, "I think clearly they have to."
Reams said investigators believe Bayview had done more than 1,000 cremations during its years of operation.
Seabrook is on the Massachusetts border. Two years ago, some funeral directors told The Boston Globe that Bayview stood out because its low prices included pickup and delivery services from funeral homes, which most crematoriums do not provide. At least two directors said they had reservations because the service shielded the operation from scrutiny by the homes.
Robert Biggins, owner of the Magoun-Biggins Funeral Home in Rockland, Mass., said a Georgia crematorium where 334 corpses were discovered in 2002 also provided pickup and delivery service.
Funeral director John Anderson also expressed concern in 2003 about Bayview's pickup and delivery service. His Anderson-Bryant Funeral Home in Stoneham, Mass., prefers to monitor cremations, he said.
"That eliminates the problem they had in Georgia," Anderson said.