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Arkansas woman pleads not guilty to selling over 20 boxes of stolen human body parts

A federal court in Little Rock says Candance Chapman Scott illegally sold and shipped human body parts taken from medical cadavers from the University of Arkansas Medical School.
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A federal court in Little Rock says Candance Chapman Scott illegally sold and shipped human body parts taken from medical cadavers from the University of Arkansas Medical School.

An Arkansas woman has pleaded not guilty to charges she stole body parts from medical school cadavers and sold them through Facebook for $11,000.

Candace Chapman Scott, a 36-year-old former mortuary services worker, is accused of selling 20 boxes of everything from human skin to skulls to a man in Pennsylvania, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed by a Little Rock court on Friday.

Scott was charged with 12 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property. A lawyer representing her did not immediately return a phone call from NPR requesting comment.

According to court documents, Scott worked for a company that offered commercial cremation services. One of their clients was an anatomy lab at the University of Arkansas, which used donated cadavers for medical education and research.

After one of the company's scheduled pickup days, she messaged the owner of a Facebook group, explaining how she acquired the corpses. Named Oddities, the private Facebook group contains about 380 members and bills itself as "a safe way to shop."

"I follow your page and work and LOVE it," Scott wrote to the owner, according to the indictment. "Just out of curiosity, would you know anyone in the market for a fully in tact [sic], embalmed brain?"

Scott sent pictures of two brains and a heart. The man offered $1,200 via PayPal, and gave Scott pointers on how to ship the three organs to him in Enola, Penn., via the U.S. postal service.

Over the course of the next nine months, Scott proceeded to ship the man an ear, an arm, lungs, livers, kidneys, hands, breasts, penises, fetuses, skin, skulls and one whole human head. In exchange, he paid her $10,975 in 16 separate PayPal transfers. Each time, Scott returned the rest of the remains, cremated, to the school.

The indictment does not name the buyer, but separate state charges connect the case to Pennsylvania resident Jeremy Lee Pauley, age 40.

Pauley was charged by a Cumberland County criminal court with four counts of receiving stolen property, intending to participate in unlawful activity and abusing a corpse. Pauley's lawyer did not immediately return NPR's request for comment.

Police were tipped off to Pauley's purchases in June 2022, according to a press release announcing his arrest.

In July, a caller reported finding "human organs" and "human skin" resting in three five-gallon buckets in Pauley's basement, the press release says.

Officials confirmed the report, confiscated all remains and intercepted an additional set of packages containing parts as they were being shipped in Scranton.

Pauley's Facebook page is still selling a human hand and a full set of human ribs, which Pauley says came from France.

A website bearing his name describes him as a "preservation specialist" who "works to produce educational tools through reconditioning retired medical remains."

A spokesperson for the University of Arkansas Medical School told NPR that the school is appalled that anyone would desecrate medical donations for their own gain.

"Human bodies are an indispensable aid in the education of medical students," said Leslie Welch Taylor. "We are extremely respectful of our donors when they're in our care."

Each year, the school holds a ceremony for medical students to honor the deceased donors who helped supplement their education, Taylor says. They partner with local cemeteries to house the ashes or return them to families upon request.

Taylor said the FBI is trying to identify which cadavers were impacted, but it's a challenge given the embalming process affects DNA.

The school and the cremation company knew nothing of the sales until they were contacted by the FBI last summer, she said. The company fired Scott immediately.

Scott is in custody with a bail hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Her trial is set to begin on May 30.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
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