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Surprise Inside - Missing Heads & Torsos

Fri, 04/02/2010 - 6:15am

Surprise Inside – Missing Heads & Torsos

Sue Major Holmes and Maria Sudekum Fisher, AP

A human head and torso were found inside a red biohazard tub as part of what was supposed to be a routine shipment of medical waste from New Mexico to a Kansas company. That gruesome discovery last week turned out to be just the start. Over the next few days, six more heads and torsos, apparently dismembered with a chain saw or another cutting device, turned up in containers also sent by the Albuquerque company Bio Care Southwest.

Bio Care owner Paul Montano was arrested Thursday following an investigation into the company that was supposed to have donated the organs in the bodies to science and had the remains cremated.

The owner of Bio Care Southwest denied dismembering any bodies, and the investigation is ongoing. Bio Care receives donated bodies and harvests organs and other parts that it sells for medical research. The researchers return the organs to Bio Care once their experiments are complete, then Bio Care sends the remains for cremation and gives the ashes to the families, investigators said.

Bio Care's website 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. The company has a contract with Stericycle to dispose of any leftover medical waste. Stericycle told investigators it receives medical waste, soft tissue, organs and occasionally limbs — but never heads and torsos.

Homicide detectives in Kansas City began investigating the grim body part discoveries, and they were eventually traced back to New Mexico. Court documents identified three of the bodies, including Charles Hines. Hines died last September of a stroke. His son turned to Bio Care to harvest his father's organs for science after learning it would take up to a year to get the body back if he donated it to a university. The process was much quicker with Bio Care.

Bio Care sent back a sealed box with what Hines was told were all his father's cremated remains. He memorialized his father at a simple gathering of friends last October at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, an event the elder Hines helped organize decades ago. Hines scattered a few ashes at the site and took ashes to Tucson, where his father grew up. He is reportedly going to contact an attorney.

Montano was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center on three counts of fraud.

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