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Dallas Man Cuts Off Foot of Corpse, May Get a Slap on Wrist

May 4, 2010
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Dallas Man Cuts Off Foot of Corpse, May Get a Slap on Wrist

imageWhen I read this article I was appalled that someone would do something like this, but then I read the punishment this guy is facing and I really flipped.

Why do people get away with mistreating corpses? What is wrong with our society? Why is the mistreatment of a dead body a misdemeanor? I just don’t understand why there is no respect for the dead in our country?


Daniel Wayne Staley is fascinated by death ? so much so, police say, that he dug up a grave and used a hatchet to cut off the foot of a corpse in a private Jewish cemetery in Pleasant Grove.

Police plan to charge Staley, 18, with abuse of a human corpse or grave. He faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine in the Class A misdemeanor case.

He is being held in the Dallas County Jail on $10,000 bail.

“He’s infatuated with death and decided to do it,” said Sgt. Bruce McDonald, a homicide unit supervisor. “He has some very serious issues and possibly mental problems. He knew what he was doing was wrong.”

Staley’s mother, who asked that her name not be published, said he has been in and out of mental institutions and suffers from a laundry list of illnesses, including schizophrenia. She said he won’t take his medications. She also said he called her from jail and indicated no remorse for disturbing the grave.

“He’s ready to get out so he can do something worse,” she said. “He thinks it’s funny. I’m terrified of him doing something to harm another person because it is reaching that point. … It is just so horrible what he did. I can’t find words for it, but it’s so sick.

“As his family, we really have no control over what he did, but also as his family we want to somehow make some sort of apology.”

Staley’s MySpace page conveys a sense of nihilism and frequent references to death. In one photo, he points a gun to his head. On April 19, he writes that he is “still contemplating the time when i go get my corpse. i dont think i could fit the whole thing in my bag.”

He last logged in Thursday afternoon, listing his mood as “good as dead.”

About 12 hours later, Staley approached police officers and told them that he had a human foot in his bag. Police said he pulled the foot out of the bag and showed it to the officers about 3:30 a.m. Friday, telling them that he dug it up from a nearby grave and took the foot from a “Jew girl.”

Police found a small hatchet and fragments from the foot in the bag.

Staley then led officers to the Tiferet Israel Agudas Achim Cemetery on Buckner Boulevard near Scyene Road. He showed them the grave he had dug up. He was then arrested.

Police found a shovel thought to have been used to dig up the grave. They also searched the woods behind the cemetery, looking for more body parts. A rabbi also came to the cemetery to check out the grave. Police believe the foot came from the grave of Leibe Vener, who died in 1941.

McDonald of the homicide unit said Staley didn’t take the foot because the corpse was that of a Jewish person.

“I think it was a spur-of-the-moment deal,” he said. “He just decided to do it.”

McDonald said officials are trying to reach Vener’s family. “My detective was working through the contacts with the cemetery just to let them know that this happened,” he said.

Gary Weinstein, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, said he was glad to hear that it did not appear to be a hate crime.

“The Jewish community respects all of our religious communities and we, too, would expect that everyone would respect our traditions and other customs as well,” he said.

For months, Staley has been spiraling out of control, according to his mother and police records.

Staley faces one misdemeanor count of making a terroristic threat over a March 15 incident that took place in the 13600 block of Preston Road. According to police records, Staley told a sales manager that he would “blow up this building and kill everyone.”

Staley told officers that he had made the statements in anger and because of his inability “to deal with authority.” While officers were on the scene, he told the man that he would beat him up if he saw him, police records state.

On April 1, Staley told police that he was thinking about setting his mother on fire by pouring gasoline on her. He told police that he was off his medications for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

He also stated that he wanted to commit suicide. Police took him into custody and took him to Parkland Hospital for mental treatment.

“This the first time he’s threatened to do anything to me, to my knowledge,” his mother said. “He’s threatened to kill his dad.”

She said she was at a loss about what to do to help her only child. When he’s not on medication, she said, he’s dangerous to himself and others.

“We’ve all tried to get him help,” she said. “The problem is that the help is only temporary and he’s released again, and someone with his kind of illness can’t be released and expected to take care of himself. He’s not going to take care of himself. He has no control over his mind.”

Staley’s mother said neither she nor other members of the family plan to bail him out. In fact, she hopes he stays put.

“I hope he stays in there for a long time,” she said. “He does not need to be a free person. I hate to say that about my own child.”