DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge has set a Feb. 21 trial for a Detroit-area man charged with supplying diseased body parts for medical training — although a plea deal could be reached before that date.
Arthur Rathburn appeared in federal court Friday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Wyse told a judge that there are ongoing negotiations with Rathburn and his lawyer about a plea agreement.
The government says the Grosse Pointe Park man operated International Biological Inc., which rented out body parts — including heads and torsos — for medical or dental training.
According to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, Rathburn and his wife worked as cadaver dealers, obtaining donated bodies through deceit and then distributing them while ignoring industry standard precautions.
The unusual business was legal, but Rathburn is accused of making false statements and transporting hazardous materials.
As alleged in the 13-count indictment, Rathburn didn’t use industry standard equipment, but instead used a chainsaw to dismember the bodies, and then stacked diseased human heads on top of other heads, disregarding any risk of cross-contamination.
Investigators say some body parts came from people who had HIV or hepatitis B.
In one 2012 instance, the indictment details, he allegedly shipped, on a Delta cargo plane, an infected head wrapped in a garbage bag and packed in a camping cooler, falsely claiming it had been embalmed. Seven other human heads, along with large quantities of blood, were also part of the shipment and packed in the same unsafe and illegal manner, according to the indictment.
Rathburn’s wife, Elizabeth Rathburn, pleaded guilty to fraud in March and awaits her sentence.
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