Dozens of Bodies Found in Sheds and Woods Behind Rural Crematory

Authorities arrested a man Saturday who had been operating a crematory where dozens of decomposing corpses were found stacked in storage sheds and scattered in the woods behind it.

Scores of bodies were found stacked in storage sheds and scattered on a 10-acre site around the crematory in the state's northwest corner.

"The worst horror movie you've ever seen — imagine that 10 times worse," Walker County Coroner Dewayne Wilson said. "That is what I'm dealing with."

The owners of Tri-State Crematory, Ray and Clara Marsh, turned over their records to authorities and were cooperating, Walker County chief deputy Hill Morrison said.

The couple's son, Ray Marsh, was arrested Saturday evening and charged with theft by deception, a felony. He was being held without bond.

Tim Mason said his father, who died in December, was the first body to be identified. The body has been sent to a funeral home for cremation, he said.

"I just can't imagine," said Mason, 53, of La Fayette. "I mean I can see ... getting a few days behind, (but) months, years? I just can't imagine anyone doing that. I'm real disappointed, that's for sure."

Mason said his mother died in 1995 and her body was sent to Tri-State Crematory. Mason said he hopes her body was cremated and will not be discovered.

Officials said the number of bodies could reach the hundreds. Investigators had found at least 80 bodies on the property behind Tri-State Crematory and were still finding others Saturday evening, said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Authorities planned to set up a morgue at the site to begin sifting through the corpses and trying to identify them. But some of the bodies had likely been left there as long as three years.

"This is going to be a major effort," Bankhead said. "It doesn't look like all these bodies are going to be identified."

A call to the crematory Saturday was not immediately returned. A recording directed callers to the Walker County sheriff's office.

The chief Georgia medical examiner, state pathologists and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were scouring the woods Saturday night for more bodies.

The discoveries began Friday when a woman walking her dog found a skull. Within hours, investigators had found three dozen corpses, some of them stacked next to tools in storage sheds.

Some of the bodies in the sheds may have been put there as recently as this past week, and some of the corpses in the woods may have been there three years or longer, said Sheriff Steve Wilson.

He said the owners told authorities the crematory had not been in operation but there was no word on how long.

In November, a resident reported finding a body part in woods nearby, the sheriff said. Deputies searched the area but found nothing suspicious.

Noble is about 85 miles northwest of Atlanta.