DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The ex-wife of a Michigan man who is charged with selling infected body parts says the couple lied about the diseased parts because they didn’t want to lose business.
Elizabeth Rathburn testified Wednesday on the third day of trial for Arthur Rathburn. He’s charged with covering up the fact that the body parts, including heads and torsos, had tested positive for hepatitis B and HIV. They were used for medical or dental training.
The unusual business was legal, but Arthur Rathburn is accused of making false statements and transporting hazardous materials.
Elizabeth Rathburn, who pleaded guilty to fraud, told jurors that Arthur Rathburn assured her that he could make viruses inactive through embalming.
Stephen Gore, owner of Arizona-based Biological Resource Center, says Arthur Rathburn ordered cheaper infected body parts from him so he could make more money.
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.
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.
Arthur Rathburn’s lawyer says the case should have been treated as a contract dispute, not a crime.
The Rathburns split up after they were charged. He earlier turned down a plea deal and a prison sentence of four to five years.
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