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Georgia Authorities Reveal New Information in Crematory Case

Aired February 19, 2002 - 14:07   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: In a moment, we're going to take you live to Noble, Georgia. Again, investigators and medical examiners have gathered in front of the microphones there. We do anticipate to hear more news not just about what is happening at the crematory, but also with the suspect who now, again, is behind bars.

We will take you up to northwestern Georgia now live as that briefing gets under way.


SHERIFF STEVE WILSON, WALKER COUNTY, GEORGIA: I will do an introduction of the gentlemen and ladies behind me and then we'll go into the press conference.

I have Doctor Sperry here that all of you have met; the coroner, Dewayne Wilson; the district attorney, Buzz Franklin directly behind me; Buddy Nix, the director of the GBI; Vicki Mintz (ph) with the public affairs office of the GBI; and we have Ken Davis; public affairs with GEMA here this afternoon with us. Once again, good to see each and every one of you and hopefully we will be able to give you some information that's of interest to you this afternoon.

First of all, I want to announce that tonight at 7:00 p.m., there will be a candlelight service for the victims at Oakwood Baptist Church in Chickamauga. That's about three miles north of here. And this was really organized by the families, something that they wanted to do so that they could all come together and have a time of reflection over the last few days to remember their loved ones, to have a time of prayer and a reading of the scriptures so that they could feel some comfort in the tragedy that has affected their lives this last four days. So that will be tonight at 7:00 p.m. We are going to ask you to choose a pool photographer and a pool camera, that one will be allowed of each inside the church. You will be allowed to set up your trucks outside the church. There is a large parking lot that will accommodate you for that. But, Vicki will be coordinating that with you and choosing the pool of each one of those.

Secondly, I want to address the investigation that is progressing this afternoon. Many of you may know that, as we speak, there's currently a search warrant being executed at the home of Ray Brent Marsh on Center Point Road, just down from the crematory site. GBI agents are there along with other law enforcement agents. We are currently looking for business records and computer records that would assist us in this investigation.

Also, at the back of this home, which is located near the lake property, one additional coffin has been discovered at the rear of this home, and we will be inspecting it later this afternoon once the home has been through at that point.

At this point, I will call on Dr. Sperry to come forward and discuss some of the ongoing things in the forensic end of this investigation -- Dr. Sperry.


The disaster mortuary operation response team is on site and setting up their facility, and some of their experts, forensic pathologists and anthropologists, have been on the site since the first thing this morning. And they have all been detailed to assist with my personnel and with GBI agents in inspecting and recovering the remains from the various sites at the back of the -- within the woods, where there are -- multiple bodies had been found. And these are really anthropology recovery sites where there are multiple sets of remains that have to be taken out very, very carefully. So, there are several teams now of scientists as well as agents who are working on this.

And this is progressing very well. I am very pleased with the progress of how this is going. We have, as of noon today, we have recovered and tagged 149 different sets of remains of which there are, again, as of noon, we have 29 confirmed identifications. So again, that is continuing to go on. We anticipate getting to the vaults perhaps tomorrow, especially if there's inclement weather. I believe there is rain expected and that will force us possibly to suspend the outside operations, but the vaults are all inside the large shed building. And the various operations are being set up now to provide heat and light into that building so that we can have an optimal atmosphere to work on this. But we're anticipating again that we will start on that tomorrow, just depending on everything else that we have to do.

And then, finally, last evening I and other members of my staff have assisted with many GBI agents, looked at total a of 79 new sets of cremains that were brought in for our inspection. And of those, we found that eight had been -- well, there were seven actually that were either whole or, in part, adulterated with again what appears to be concrete dust. There was one set that appears to be dirt, basically potting soil. We could not find any human remains in it. It appeared to be dirt.

Also, there is one set that was furnished to us that is human cremains. However, we had already identified the individual that these cremains were supposed to have come from at the scene, and so the family were given back, obviously, cremains from someone else, not their loved one because we had identified this person already. That's really everything I have to add today. Thanks.

WILSON: Thank you, Doctor. Dewayne Wilson, coroner. DEWAYNE WILSON, WALKER COUNTY CORONER: One of the thing the news media had asked for my department yesterday dealing with the funeral homes and the funeral homes involved with a list of the funeral homes. Some of the complaints the families had was they didn't know some of the funeral homes were involved and didn't know later on because this did cover a large area of Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. It's my understanding that the local paper here in Chattanooga has published those funeral homes. So, in regard to time, I would request that you pick that up. As we get the new funeral homes, there is others involved, we will publish those and give those out to you as soon as possible. Thank you.

S. WILSON: Thank you. Director Nix?

MILTON "BUDDY" NIX, DIRECTOR, GBI: Milton Nix, GBI director.

We've started to get some telephone calls from outside of the tri-state area from family members that have remains that they thought came from this crematorium. And they're wanting to make arrangements to send those remains in for examination and we will be working out the protocols to handle that. We will be working with law enforcement and medical personnel in those states to try to simplify the process. We are continuing to evaluate resource and personnel needs so that we can make this as painless as possible under the most difficult of circumstances to the family members.

We've increased our investigative staff by at least 15 agents. The last count that I had, we had only 10 families that were waiting to be interviewed. The families, at this point, not having to wait more than 45 minutes to an hour for the initial interview process. I think that's all I have to cover. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

S. WILSON: Vicki, we'd like to call on you at this time please.

VICKI MINTZ (ph), PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GBI: I'm here, I'm speaking on behalf of the demorgue team just to tell you a little bit about this team. This team is from the region-four area. It is, again, it's a disaster mortuary operational team. They have now here a complete mobile morgue. It is operational at this time.

And team members come from a variety of forensic areas. We have forensic pathologists, dentists, anthropologists, funeral home directors and embalmers, computer experts, security people, X-ray techs, photographers, medical doctors and nurses. We have 23 professionals with us today. And this is the same group that was used in the 9/11 attacks in New York and in Pennsylvania. And the team comes under the direction of the National Disaster Medical System, which is through the secretary department of health and human services. And, of course, their mission is to support the local medical examiners and the identification process.

S. WILSON: Thank you, Vicki. At this time, we'd call on Ken with GEMA.

KEN DAVIS, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, GEMA: Thank you. Ken Davis, public affairs officer with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

For the benefit of families who may think they have relatives who may be included in this situation, GEMA's Web site will have a decedent description form online that can be accessed. That information can be e-mailed to the center here to provide GBI agents and other law enforcement agents with the necessary information to help with victim identification. Our Web site is And there will also be more information on our site as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's site for victims, families to access. However, if there are still unanswered questions, people or family members may call the family information line.

HEMMER: A lot of unanswered questions there in Noble, Georgia, listening to investigators and officials there, meet reporters today just 24 hours after we heard their briefing yesterday.

The news we have right now from this briefing here so far, 149 bodies have been recovered and tagged. And the suspect in this case, Ray Marsh, apparently a search warrant has been issued for his home, things like business records will be looked into, computer records. He is behind bars by the way, was picked up over the weekend, let go, then rearrested after more discoveries were made there.

Also, they say they have located a coffin behind his house. Not a whole lot more detail coming on that item, but we do know that that's the case here. You are looking at the aerials now, the crematory site here, northwestern Georgia, location about 85 miles north of Atlanta.

Again, 149 bodies so far tagged and recovered. The vaults that they're talking about, possibly four, maybe even more, may be inspected tomorrow. The medical examiner indicating that the heating system and lighting system still being established right now. But barring any bad weather, barring any rain delays tomorrow, they might be able to go into those vaults. And again, we had the word yesterday that they do anticipate to find a number of more bodies inside the vaults there in Noble, Georgia.




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