Monday, January 15, 2001

Corpses abused for photos

Coroner 'outraged;' vice squad investigating

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Hamilton County coroner on Sunday vowed tighter security following an investigation into “gross” photographic abuse of corpses by a professional photographer there on another assignment.

        The Cincinnati police vice squad is investigating the case, in which an unnamed photographer, doing cost estimates for an approved videotape of a medical procedure, gained access to off-limit areas of the morgue and allegedly photographed corpses in inappropriate ways.

        No suspect has been named.

        The photographer brought props into the morgue and took pictures of women, men and children — in various stages of being autopsied — with these props, according to a source close to the investigation.

        In one image a key was placed on a woman's mouth, said the source, who has reviewed the photos. In others, sheets of music and a snail shell were placed on bodies.

        “All I know is the photos are very disturbing,” Cincinnati police Lt. Ray Ruberg said Sunday. “And that's the evidence they're working off of. The whole demeaning aspect of how they posed individuals that were deceased, to see something of this nature occur, anyone with normal sensitivi ties would be offended.”

        Coroner Carl L. Parrott said the photos were brought to Cincinnati police's attention by a photo developing firm that he did not identify.

        “I am outraged, dismayed and disheartened by the apparent violation of the standards of human decency,” Dr. Parrott said, “by the violation of the tenets of our profession as physicians, first and foremost, and especially by the apparent ease with which this person compromised a secure facility.” He said the photographer was “costing out” a project that entailed videotaping a procedure done at the Forensic Institute. While there, however, the photographer gained access to the restricted area in which corpses are kept.

        Dr. Parrott said Sunday his department is cooperating fully with the investigation and ordered his staff to be prepared to testify before a grand jury or at trial should charges be filed.

        He added that he takes responsibility for the security breach.

        “Somehow (the photographer) managed to talk his way back in the Institute with the unauthorized purpose in mind,” Dr. Parrott said. “He took advantage of a legitimate process, unbeknownst to senior staff, for which I assume full responsibility.”

       Dan Horn of the Enquirer staff contributed.



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