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Find Box Full of Human Heads

August 15, 1986

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A shipping company’s employees opened a leaky box thinking it countained aerosol cans, but discovered 12 human heads in plastic bags, authorities said Thursday.

The heads, discovered in Louisville, Ky., were shipped to Denver by an eye, ear and throat specialist here who may have been sending body parts to medical schools for 15 years, District Attorney Ron Castille said Thursday.

The heads may have come from cadavers used in medical school anatomy classes and shipped in violation of state laws, said Castille. They were not thought to come from homicide victimes, said police Capt. Robert Grasso.

United Parcel Service employees at an air-shipping hub in Louisville found the heads July 24 after opening the leaky box, said Dr. Richard Greathouse, the Jefferson County, Ky., coroner.

The UPS workers resealed the packages and sent them on to the Denver research center, said Greathouse, adding that the discovery upset UPS workers.

″It’s not like finding your toothbrush on the floor,″ he said. ″One of the employees was a young college student, and it made her sick to think about it as late as the next day.″

Grasso said the heads were shipped by Dr. Martin Spector of Philadelphia.

″There is no reason to believe that any homicides were involved and we are not pursuing that angle,″ Grasso said.

Spector ″apparently told police that this has been going on for at least 15 years,″ Castille said.

″We think the heads are probably taken after the body is used for medical training but before it is properly disposed of,″ Castille said. ″We’re going to get to the bottom of this mystery.″

FBI officials said they also were investigating the case.

Meanwhile, officers searching the doctor’s residence-office Thursday night found eight pairs of frozen ears, said homicide Detective Robert Lagera. Lagera declined to provide further information, saying only that the ears were submitted to the police crime lab.

Greathouse said the heads apparently were packed two to a box. They were not on ice, but he said he thought the plastic bags contained preservative.

Not notifying the coroner’s office immediately about the discovery of human remains is against the law, said Greathouse, but he added that no charges would be brought against UPS employees.

Castille said dealing in body parts would appear to violate state laws against the abuse of a corpse and health and safety codes governing the disposition of human bodies.

State law forbids the shipment of bodies or body parts out of state, said Cheryl Blumenthal, program co-ordinator of the state’s Humanity Gifts Registry.

Spector ″is not co-operating with us,″ Castille said.

Spector has privileges at two teaching hospitals, Graduate Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

″He did not get the heads from Graduate Hospital,″ said hospital spokesman Tony Ryzinski.

At HUP, spokeswoman Iris Alvaro said Spector was not a full-time member of the staff or faculty but said she was unable to learn anything else about his status.

Spector did not return calls to his office Thursday. A receptionist said he had left the office in the afternoon and would not return until Monday.

A KYW-AM reporter who saw him entering a car at his home in the morning quoted him as saying he ″didn’t know anything about it.″

UPS officials referred questions to company headquarters in Greenwich, Conn., where spokesman Dan Buckley declined comment.

An investigation showed that Spector had arrangements to ship body parts to three medical schools, Castille said. He did not know their names.

Castille identified the heads’ destination as the Ontological Research Center, but no listing could be found in Denver for a facility of that name.

Ms. Blumenthal, of the state’s Humanity Gifts Registry, doubted that the severed heads came from medical schools in Pennsylvania.

″All of the facilities in the medical schools where the cadavers are kept are secured areas and its very unlikely that any unauthorized person would have access to them,″ Ms. Blumenthal said.

″The other problem with that theory is that the heads would have been dissected, and of no further use for experiments or training.″

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