OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Macabre for sale

It sounds ghastly enough on its face, peddling human body parts from a crematorium for thousands of dollars to a collector of strange things in Pennsylvania.

Come to think of it, I believe I recall that horror movie from years ago.

Candace Chapman Scott, 36, of Little Rock was facing charges last month following a federal grand jury indictment related to allegedly selling body parts to 40-year-old artist Jeremy Lee Pauley of East Pennsboro Township, Pa., whom news accounts refer to as a self-described collector of oddities.

Between October 2021 and July 2022, Scott is believed to have sold the body parts while she was employed at Arkansas Central Mortuary Services, which contracts with UAMS to cremate the medical school's research cadavers. Scott's responsibilities, the indictment said, included the transport, embalming and cremation of human remains.

The news account by reporter Dale Ellis said the U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock wouldn't confirm or deny the connection between Scott and Pauley, but Cumberland County, Pa., officials named Scott as the source of the body parts in a news release issued the day of Pauley's arrest in August 2022.

The indictment contends Scott is believed to have contacted Pauley via Facebook on Oct. 28, 2021, with the message: '"I follow your page and work and LOVE it. I'm a mortician and work at a trade service mortuary, so we are contracted through the medical hospital here in Little Rock to cremate their cadavers when the medical students are done with them before they discard them in a cremation garden. Just out of curiosity, would you know anyone in the market for a fully in tact [sic], embalmed brain?' ...

"The indictment then outlines a series of nine transfers of 38 cadavers from the UAMS Anatomical Gift Program and one transfer of fetal remains over the next nine months to the crematorium where Scott was employed." A second fetus transferred to the mortuary from another mortuary was intercepted and sold.

Scott, who did have an active mortician's license, was not authorized, according to the indictment, "to harvest organs, tissues, or bones, or dismember a corpse, for any purpose, including financial gain."

Over the nine months described in the indictment, Scott was paid a total of $10,975 in 16 separate PayPal transactions, which were transferred to Scott's personal bank account, according to the news account. Nine shipments during the same period were sent from Little Rock to Pennsylvania of 20 boxes and packages believed to have contained human remains.

UAMS spokeswoman Leslie Taylor told the reporter that UAMS continues to contract with Arkansas Central Mortuary Services for cremation services and has cooperated fully with the investigation. She also said there's been no indication of any involvement of anyone else connected with the mortuary.

Quite a story and one that makes me wonder how much of this goes on nationwide. I hope any remains left are properly cremated and laid to rest.

Taylor said officials at UAMS were grateful that federal authorities had moved forward with charges against Scott and said the biggest victims in the crime are those who donated their bodies to the medical school for research purposes.

Calling the donors "true heroes," Taylor said, "That's really something we cannot educate students without."

Earlier this month, U.S. marshals escorted Scott into the courtroom from the Pulaski County jail, where she had been held since her arrest. Following a closed hearing involving Scott, U.S. attorneys Amanda Jegley and Anne Gardner, and Scott's attorney, Seth Bowman of Little Rock, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray said he was ordering a mental evaluation at Bowman's request. Scott was to be held in federal custody until she could be transported to the appropriate Bureau of Prisons facility for the evaluation.

Seventh cheapest

Our Arkansas ranked seventh for the least expensive housing in 2022, according to a study by Studio City Realtors using data supplied by Zillow.

The median sale price for a home of $188,713 and a yearly median Arkansas household income of $50,784 resulted in a household income-to-sale ratio of 3.72.

The cheapest state was Illinois, where the monthly median sale price of houses in 2022 was $133,750, and the median household income was the highest in the ranking.

Pet peeves

I've developed a couple of pet peeves of late and figured I might as well share them.

First, I wish the talk-show hosts on news channels would find the courtesy to stop interrupting the people they invite to speak.

Why invite anyone if a host's inflated ego won't allow them to respond in full without the host talking over them with more of his own opinion?

Secondly, I'm anxiously waiting for a vehicle manufacturer who will place a button near the driver's side to push whenever the driver leaves their door standing wide open and has physical problems straining to close it.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.