Thursday, March 09, 2006

What People won't do for Money: Alistair Cooke

These "Body Snatchers" are just sick. I don't know what else to say. Just read it .

By TOM HAYS
NEW YORK (AP) - A family-owned funeral home may have taken cash kickbacks to look the other way when a body-parts ring plundered the corpses of ``Masterpiece Theatre'' host Alistair Cooke and other people, according to two law enforcement officials close to the case.

The officials said in recent interviews that investigators were targeting New York Mortuary Service Inc., the Manhattan funeral parlor that handled Cooke's body after he died in 2004. They suspect the business conspired with the alleged ringleader - a former oral surgeon named Michael Mastromarino - by alerting him whenever ``they had a body that they could cut up without anyone knowing,'' one official said.
The arrangement allowed the ring to take tissue from people who had not given consent or were too old or too sick to donate, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.
The tissue - typically skin, bone and tendons - was later sold for use in a variety of common procedures like dental implants and hip replacements.
An attorney for Timothy O'Brien, owner of New York Mortuary Service, called any allegation that his client violated the dead or misled their survivors ``completely false.''
The grisly case has stunned both transplant recipients who fear the body parts could spread disease and families who believed their loved ones were resting in one piece.
In an essay last week in The New York Times, Cooke's daughter said she was haunted by news that his leg bones had been extracted for profit. ``To know his bones were sold was one thing, but to see him standing truncated before me is another entirely,'' Susan Cooke Kittredge wrote.
Mastromarino, 42, and three other defendants pleaded not guilty last month to charges including body stealing, unlawful dissection and forgery. The Brooklyn District Attorney's office and the police have said more arrests are expected.
The ring allegedly removed parts from hundreds of bodies from funeral parlors in New York, Rochester, Philadelphia and New Jersey. Authorities said Mastromarino made millions selling the parts to biomedical supply companies.
Investigators unearthed evidence that death certificates and other paperwork were doctored. In Cooke's case, his age was put down as 85 rather than 95, and the cause of death was listed as a heart attack instead of lung cancer that had spread to his bones.

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