Cremation Scandal Stretching From KCK to New Mexico
Harold Dillard?s family planned to have a memorial with his ashes alongside a mountain stream. Now his loved ones wonder whose ashes they really have.
Darlene Dillard broke down and cried Thursday when she learned that her ex-husband?s remains were identified among those found at Stericycle, a Kansas City, Kan., medical waste facility.
?What sick people,? the distraught woman said. ?That is so sick.?
Albuquerque, N.M., police on Thursday arrested the man who they think has the answers to questions from families whose loved ones? bodies were donated to science at an Albuquerque company. The company?s owner, Paul Montano, 31, is in jail charged with three counts of fraud over $500.
Authorities believe Montano, who owns Bio Care, is linked to the seven heads, torso and 12 tubs of body parts found at Stericycle last month.
Court records allege that Montano?s business did not provide promised cremations on donated bodies. His alleged motive was not immediately known. Montano pleaded not guilty Thursday at a court hearing in New Mexico, and his bond was set at $50,000.
Montano?s company receives donated bodies and removes and sells organs and body parts for biomedical research, medical schools and pharmaceutical studies. He also owns the New Mexico Learning Center, a medical learning center affiliated with Bio Care.
According to court records obtained Thursday, Montano told investigators that he operates the business with five volunteer employees and his father, who picks up the bodies and delivers them to Bio Care, where Montano removes the needed organs or limbs. He denied dismembering any bodies.
According to its Web site, Bio Care says its mission is to advance medicine through donated non-transplantable human tissue, allowing scientists to study a donor?s organs to better understand disease.
?At Bio Care, you will always be treated with dignity, respect and honesty,? its home page says.
After organs are removed for research, the donated bodies are refrigerated until whole organs are returned. Then the bodies are supposed to be put back together, the remains cremated and ashes sent to families, all at no cost to the families.
But some of the bodies were not cremated. Records indicate that Bio Care has a contract with Stericycle, the company that received the body parts last month.
Stericycle reported that it was to receive medical waste, soft tissue and organs and occasional limbs ?but never heads and torsos.?
Court documents state that for the last several months, shipments to Stericycle from New Mexico Learning Center ?have been getting increasingly larger,? from two containers in January to eight in February to the 12 containers in March. When Kansas City, Kan., police examined the March shipment, they reported that body parts appeared to have been dismembered by a coarse instrument like a chain saw.
Bio Care contracts say it will pay for cremation that costs from $600 to $1,800, but Montano would not tell police where any cremations had taken place.
Riverside Funeral Home in Belen, N.M., which has done business with Bio Care in the past, told police that five names were provided to it by Bio Care to be cremated, but the bodies were never delivered.
?Unfortunately, I think many funeral homes and families alike have been misled,? said Robert Noblin, owner of Riverside.
Court records identified three people among the remains found in Kansas City, Kan. They are Jacqueline Snyder, Chuck Hines and Harold Dillard. Wyandotte County Coroner Alan Hancock is still trying to identify the others.
Hines? son, who is also named Chuck Hines, said he entrusted the body of his 83-year-old father to Bio Care after he died of a stroke in September.
Hines, of Bosque Farms, N.M., said he received ashes said to be his father?s remains and he memorialized his father at a gathering of friends.
?You know, you get a box of ashes, you don?t know if it?s all there,? he said. ?You assume it is.?
He found out Wednesday that some of his father?s remains were found in a delivery truck in Kansas City, Kan.
Sharon Frausto is also wondering about the remains of her late husband, Johnny ?Chief? Frausto, who died Jan. 10 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
?He wanted to donate his body and find out what causes pancreatic cancer,? his wife said, and his body was donated to Bio Care.
But Frausto is still waiting for her husband?s remains. She?s called Bio Care weekly for about a month but has not received a satisfactory answer.
?I had just spoken to Paul Montano the week before, and he promised faithfully that the remains would be in my possession Tuesday afternoon, and they didn?t show up,? she said.
Hancock has said that the three bodies he identified had death certificates saying they were cremated, when they clearly were not.
On Thursday, Hancock said the charges were progress and said he stands ready to return the remains to Albuquerque authorities.
?I?d be glad to let them have them,? he said.
Frausto spoke with Hancock on Thursday, but the coroner did not believe her husband?s remains were in Kansas City, Kan.
The woman from Albuquerque knew medical science research took time, but when her husband?s remains didn?t return in the promised two to four weeks, she grew worried.
Frausto said she has repeatedly phoned Bio Care.
?Where?s my husband?s body? Is it in KC too?? she demanded. ?I said he better be at the funeral home or it?s going to be tough on you. I intend to pursue this.?
This week alone she said the story she heard from Bio Care employees had changed several times. One female employee said that the company didn?t know where the body was, Frausto said. Another employee told her, ?We?ve got him, we?ve got him. We?ve got him here in this facility.?
But when she asked the employee to prove it, he hung up on her, Frausto said.
Frausto went to the Bio Care business with an Albuquerque TV station earlier this week.
?It looked like they had just flat moved out in a hurry,? she said. ?The cameraman went out to the back to see what was going on and it stunk so bad. I don?t know if they had any electricity there.?
The visit prompted Frausto to file a complaint with the consumer protection division of the New Mexico attorney general?s office. Frausto said she contacted police to see if they could help. She?s waiting to hear back from an investigator.
?I would like very much for this to be taken to the highest court in the land,? she said. ?I don?t want anybody else to have to suffer through this.?
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