Dozens of residents in and around Phoenix, Arizona, donated their deceased loved one’ bodies to the Biological Resource Center, expecting them to be used for science.
What they did not expect was for their loved one’s bodies to be chopped up and for horrific experiments and stored in disturbing ways. In January 2014, the FBI raided the BRC; their findings are just coming to light as part of a civil lawsuit against the company and owner Stephen Gore brought by 33 family members of those whose bodies were chopped up.
Former Phoenix FBI special agent Mark Cwynar’s declaration, included in the lawsuit, states that when he raided the BRC, he “personally observed various unsettling scenes,” according to a reading of the lawsuit by The Arizona Republic. Agents found a “cooler filled with male genitalia,” “a bucket of heads, arms and legs,” and a “large torso with the head removed and replaced with a smaller head sewn together in a ‘Frankenstein’ manner,” Cwynar testified. He also saw, according to the Republic:
- Large male torsos with limbs and genitalia removed.
- Buckets and coolers with various body parts, including a bucket of heads, arms and legs.
- Body parts piled on top of each other throughout the facility, with no apparent identification.
- Steel freezers with frozen body parts inside with no apparent identification.
The New York Post reported that agents also found “infected heads” and stacked body parts without identification tags.
The BRC was supposed to be a place were bodies could be donated for science. The center would even pick up the bodies for free and return the cremated remains of any body parts the company couldn’t sell for scientific purposes. The Post reported that a price list from 2013 listed a boy’s body without the head or shoulders for $2,900. A whole spine cost $950.
The bodies, according to the lawsuit, weren’t provided for scientific research, but instead sold to middlemen for profit. The lawsuit alleges that the bodies were not treated with dignity or respect and were stored and disposed of improperly.
Four other body donation centers in Arizona are accredited, yet the BRC was not.
The Republic reported that in October 2015, Gore pleaded guilty to “conducting an illegal enterprise” after he was accused of providing contaminated human tissue and misusing body parts against donors wishes. He wrote a letter to the judge in the case ahead of his sentencing, in which he claimed he was overwhelmed and didn’t know exactly what to do since the industry was unregulated in the state.
“I could have been more open about the process of donation on the brochure we put in public view,” Gore wrote. “When deciding which donors could be eligible to donate, I should have hired a medical director rather than relying on medical knowledge from books or the internet.”
In 2017, the Arizona legislature passed a law requiring body donation centers to obtain a state license. The law has not yet been implemented.
A trial for the civil lawsuit is scheduled to begin on October 21 in Maricopa County Superior Court.