ALLENDALE, S.C. – South Carolina authorities on Tuesday exhumed the body of a man long rumored to have had his legs cut to fit into a coffin, and a coroner said what officials discovered has brought a criminal investigation.
Allendale County Coroner Hayzen Black said "undesirable evidence" was found after officials examined the body of James Hines, a tall man who died in 2004 of skin cancer.
Black would not say what the evidence was, but he said rumors had long circulated in the town that Hines' legs were cut so he could fit into a prepaid coffin.
"I have heard stories. They're only street talk. You don't pay any attention to it," he said. However, Black said increased interest from a prosecutor and the state's funeral licensing board led to Tuesday's exhumation, which was observed by state and local law officers and Hines' widow.
"We found undesirable evidence and it is being further investigated," Black said.
State Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons confirmed the agency was investigating whether a dead man's legs were cut off so his body could fit into a coffin.
Neither the county sheriff nor the local prosecutor returned calls after hours Tuesday. A phone listing for Hines' widow rang unanswered.
A man who answered the phone at Cave Funeral Home, which handled the Hines burial, said he was the owner but otherwise declined to comment.
Black said photos were taken for the investigation and that Hines was reburied in the same casket, which was placed in a new concrete vault.