Former Crematory Operator Wants Trial Moved Because of Death Threats

9:05 PM, Nov 18, 2003   |    comments
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    The former operator of a crematory where more than 300 corpses were discovered last year has requested a change of venue for his upcoming trial, saying he's received death threats.

    Defense attorney Ken Poston said keeping the trial in Walker County would be unsafe for his client, Ray Brent Marsh, and possibly for himself. The trial also should be held away from heavy media coverage in Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., Poston said.

    Prosecutor Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said Monday the threats were not sufficient for a change of venue, but he would agree to picking a jury from outside the county.

    Superior Court Judge James Bodiford plans to decide within two weeks on the request. A trial date has not been set.

    Marsh pleaded innocent to 179 counts of abuse of a body and 47 counts of making false statements. He withheld pleas on burial service fraud and theft, and remains free on house arrest bond.

    When investigators first searched the crematory property on Feb. 15, 2002, they found decaying bodies that were supposed to have been cremated. Bodies were spilling out of a storage shed and scattered around the crematory building and surrounding woods.

    During the hearing, Marsh's cousin testified that investigators told him there were 200 threats against the family following the discovery of neglected corpses, and FBI agent James McJunkin said that the agency misplaced a tape of a threatening telephone call to Poston.

    Poston also said his concern was based on alleged death threats, violent messages on an Internet chat room related to the crematory case and monitoring of the case by Ku Klux Klansmen.

    Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said there was no reason to move the trial.

    "There was some outrage in the community early on. That went away as time went on," Wilson said.

    Marsh is charged in Tennessee with abuse of a corpse. He is accused of transporting bodies to the crematory and returning to Tennessee funeral homes what were purported to be cremated human remains. Forensics investigators have said some of the urns contained cement dust, dirt or unidentified cremated human remains.

    Hundreds of people also are suing Marsh for failing to perform cremations.

    By BILL POOVEY, Associated Press Writer

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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