The scandal unfolding at the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, Georgia, has often been compared to events in a Stephen King novel, complete with decaying corpses and an upstanding citizen unmasked as a monster. Over 300 corpses thought to have been cremated have been discovered scattered across the 16-acre property of Ray Brent Marsh in rural Walker County. Ken Poston, an attorney defending Marsh on multiple counts of theft by deception, rejected the analogies to King’s literature of terror. “No one has been killed,” he told a judge in the case. “There is no suggestion of murder here.”
True enough. Nonetheless, what Marsh is charged with is in some respects even more disturbing. Though prohibitions against murder are at least as old as the sixth commandment, murders occur at a rate of roughly 15,000 per year in the U.S. Violations of human remains are, by contrast, extremely rare.