Corpses were found stacked in storage sheds and scattered in the woods behind the crematorium in the town of Noble, about 85 miles north-west of Atlanta. Police found corpses that were at least three years old. Some appeared to have been buried and then later exhumed. Some of the bodies still bore hospital identification tags. Some bodies had been found in rusty coffins, which could decades old.
Back in February 2002, Georgia Crematorium manager, Brent Marsh was released on bail after appearing in court charged with five counts of theft by deception: stealing bodies under the pretence that they would be cremated. Like something out of a Tobe Hooper horror flick the crime scene was described as "The worst horror movie you've ever seen" by the county coroner, Dewayne Wilson. "Imagine that 10 times worse. That is what I am dealing with."
On the grounds of the crematorium's 16-acre lot a woman walking her dog found a skull. That led to a police search of the area. Dozens of corpses and hundreds of body parts were discovered almost at once, lying in woods or stored in outbuildings. Some were bodies of people who had died only week earlier, and were readily identifiable. Others were either mummified or skeletons. The 28-year-old man operating the crematorium told authorities the incinerator "had not worked for some time", said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said some of the bodies were dumped in the woods years ago, and some were placed there just recently. He went on to say: "We began locating skeletal remains of individuals throughout the wooded area, some were in coffins, some were just strewn about the top of the ground."
Police responding to the scene found bodies and caskets at the Tri-state Crematorium dating back as far back as 10 years. There were caskets that were very old and have clearly been out in the weather for a decade or more. They seemed to be falling apart. The family owned business that has run the crematorioum for 30 years installed Bret Marsh as president in 1996. Police said that Tri-state accepted bodies from funeral homes in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Perhaps hundreds of bodies filled several rooms on the 16 acre complex, others in shallow graves. It was an amazingly moribid story at that time.
There are were skeletal remains that could be seen on the surface, and some that were piled on top of each other. Excavations were undertaken into what appeared to be graves. Police said that Marsh told them the crematorium repeatedly had mechanical problems. Sometimes it worked, often it did not. Veteran funeral directors, accustomed to dealing with death and tragedy were stunned. Instead of receiving the cremated remains of loved ones, people in many cases, received sealed urns, with ashes of other people, or rocks and concrete as filler!
Officials set up a temporary morgue at the site, fearing it could ultimately yield several hundred bodies. One offical described seeing boxes around the grounds, lying on piles of junk, with bodies inside them. Close by were body parts strewn around: "A skull to your right, a leg bone to your left, a rib cage not too many feet away," he said.
There was said to be no smell from the grounds, possibly because most of the crematorium's business came from the two neighbouring states and the law makes it compulsory for bodies being transported across state lines to be embalmed first.
Shocked relatives had their urns examined to see if the contents were the remains of their loved ones or, as some believed, just wood ash and filler. Lisa Cash, who thought her mother's ashes were on a table in her living room, said: "I've got someone in an urn, or something. I don't know what."
The Georgia Crematorium Incident: A horror story that happens to be true.