The Curious Case of the Tri-State Crematory

I was reading this strange news story from my home state the other day and got to thinking about how the area I live in is pretty dang quiet. Yeah, there’s crime, but nothing really big tends to happen. The biggest thing I remember in the last decade are a couple of kids set fire to small shed that’s near an old abandoned-looking high school and some county level shenanigans.

The shed was only used as record storage and posed not real threat to anybody.

I might should write a whole post about the county level stuff, but suffice to say we elected a new commissioner in the 2016 election cycle. My state is allegedly the only one that still has sole commissioner counties and only 8 of our 159 are like that. I’m personally not a fan, but it is what it is.

In 2002 though, for a time, things went crazy. The news broke that a local business, the Tri-State Crematory, had not been doing, ah, what they’re supposed to do. Someone even wrote a wikipedia article about it, if you feel so inclined.

It was eerie because it stands in such high contrast to the mundane day to day goings-on in our area. I, for example, drove past the area where the business is located every day on my way to the local community college. It went from normal everyday traffic to being lined with police cars and news vans. Constant helicopters flying around the area as well.

The news that broke was that some bodies hadn’t been cremated. People who were supposed to receive the ashes of their loved one reportedly received charred concrete dust and/or other things that were supposed to be similar enough for people to accept it. Neither I nor anyone I know was directly involved in this, so it’s hard for me to say.

The wikipedia article says that they ultimately recovered 336 un-cremated remains. It was huge. I even remember talking to some fellow EverQuest players overseas that had at least heard about it.

I cannot even begin to comprehend how the people the deceased left behind feel about this, now or then. It’s such a crazy and absurd crime.

There has never been a clear motive for it either. A lot of people assume it was greed. That maybe it was done to avoid the cost of operation. There’s been a small amount of evidence that suggests mercury poisoning may have been involved as well. From cremating people who had mercury amalgam fillings in a room with improper ventilation. I’m not sure I buy that, but it’s plausible.

It also took a lot to bring this to light. Complaints had been made before by some propane truck drivers that there were bodies laying around the area. The sheriff’s office had sent out a deputy who reported nothing unusual. In an odd twist, we still have the same sheriff now that we had then. Man has been in office for as long as I can remember.

That’s the other sticking point. See, the people operating this crematory were considered notable people in the local community. These weren’t just a couple of backwoods rednecks out to make a quick buck. A lot of people feel that the sherriff’s office didn’t do their due diligence because of this. Apparently not the same people that vote though, just sayin’.

Anyway, the guy that ran the place got several years and served the whole sentence. I don’t really know what happened when he got out. If I were him I imagine I would have left quietly to live somewhere else, because they also had quit a large number of law suits in addition to the prison sentence. I can’t imagine he would be able to live any kind of reasonable life in the area. Most of us know the name well enough that we would at least wonder why we knew it.

That’s by and large the strangest thing that’s happened around here. I maintain the guy that stole the 54-foot trailer of ramen noodles had no idea it had noodles in it. Yeah, I’ve eaten them for months on end, but no reasonable person could possibly need an entire semi trailer full of them.

Let me know if you guys like this kind of weird local stuff. I’ve got a couple more things I can write about that live in the local consciousness. Fortunately most of it lives on the internet now, which makes it easier for me to look up and reference. More of it than I thought, to be honest.

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