Company Denies Report on Williams’ Body
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ A director of a cryonics company said to be storing the body of Ted Williams disputed claims by a former employee that some of the baseball legend’s DNA is missing and that his remains have been treated poorly.
The former employee of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation told Sports Illustrated that Williams’ body was decapitated by surgeons in a procedure called neuroseparation, and both parts were suspended in liquid nitrogen.
The article, which hit newsstands Wednesday, also said Williams’ head was shaved, drilled with holes and accidentally cracked 10 times.
Alcor won’t confirm that it is preserving Williams’ body, but that was revealed in court documents when his oldest daughter challenged the decision to take his body to the company.
Paula Lemler, the wife of Alcor President Jerry Lemler, said Wednesday her husband is undergoing chemotherapy treatment and could not comment, but she said Alcor doesn’t take DNA or blood samples.
``If there’s something we don’t store and don’t keep, there’s no way we can lose it,″ added Carlos Mondragon, an Alcor director.
Mondragon noted that decapitation and shaving can be parts of the normal preservation process used by the company, and that the process normally causes microscopic cracks. He said that drilling holes in a head that is being preserved is also normal, but that it would be limited to one or two holes.
``We’re disputing that any patient was negligently handled,″ Mondragon said.
Mondragon described Larry Johnson, one of Sports Illustrated’s main sources and Alcor’s former chief operating officer, as a disgruntled employee.
The Associated Press was unable to contact Johnson for comment despite several attempts Wednesday. Several numbers listed under the same name had been temporarily disconnected; others were for unrelated people.
Cheryl Spain, spokeswoman for Sports Illustrated, said the magazine stood by its story.
The article _ based on internal documents, e-mails, photographs and tape recordings supplied by Johnson _ was another twist in the strange saga that began after Williams died July 5, 2002, and his body was taken by private jet to Alcor, in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.
His son John Henry and daughter Claudia maintained they signed a handwritten pact with their father in 2000 agreeing that their bodies would be frozen.
On Wednesday, investigators in Florida were examining whether the note was forged, and if so, whether a crime was committed, said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney in Ocala, Fla.
Daughter Bobby-Jo Ferrell fought bitterly to recover the frozen body, saying Williams wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread in the ocean near Key West, Fla. She claimed that her brother planned to sell their father’s DNA.
The cryonics procedure cost $136,000, according to Sports Illustrated, which said Alcor claims it is still owed $111,000.
Buzz Hamon, a former director of the Ted Williams Museum in Hernando, Fla., has asked Arizona’s attorney general to investigate Alcor and the condition of Williams’ body.
Dianna Jennings, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney general, said the office cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
Paula Lemler characterized Johnson as a disgruntled employee who made the allegations to make money on a Web site that includes an open letter _ purportedly from Johnson _ soliciting donations. The AP could not confirm whether Johnson was actually connected to the site.
Early Wednesday, the site offered to give people who donated $20 access to a private site where they could view ``extremely disturbing″ photographs documenting Ted Williams’ fate. The offer was gone later in the day.