Cryonics lab disputes story of Ted Williams' decapitation
Lab says source is disgruntled ex-employee as legend's daughter ponders legal action.
By SUZANNAH GONZALES and COLLEEN JENKINS
Published August 14, 2003
INVERNESS - A severed head, a fractured skull, some missing DNA samples and an unpaid bill for $111,000.
The postmortem story of baseball legend Ted Williams just keeps getting stranger.
Wednesday, the day Sports Illustrated published a shocking story about what has happened to the remains of her late father, Williams' eldest daughter was discussing legal strategy with lawyers.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation, an Arizona cryonics facility, dismissed the story and said its key source was a disgruntled ex-employee.
That former employee, Larry Johnson, posted a statement on the Internet explaining why he went public. He also solicited donations and joined efforts to get Williams' body out of Alcor.
Williams died July 5, 2002, in Citrus County. His body was taken to Alcor, despite the efforts of Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell, his oldest daughter, who said her father wished to be cremated and his ashes spread off the Florida coast.
In its latest issue, Sports Illustrated reports that Williams' head was severed from his body and then drilled with holes. The article said that the skull was cracked and that Alcor, still owed $111,000 for its work, couldn't account for eight DNA samples taken from the late baseball star and war hero.
Ferrell dropped her legal challenge concerning her father's remains in December.
Now she is considering whether the settlement agreement with her two half-siblings - which forbade her half-brother, John-Henry, from profiting from their father's DNA - can be nullified, or if litigation concerning the baseball legend's remains can be reopened, according to lawyer and friend John Heer.
Mark Ferrell, Bobby-Jo's husband, and Buzz Hamon, a former director of the Ted Williams Museum in Citrus, asked Arizona's attorney general to investigate Alcor's operation practices and the condition of Williams' body.
Mark Ferrell also renewed a complaint with the State Attorney's Office in Ocala concerning the authenticity of a key document in the Williams case: a contract purported to express the Hall of Famer's wishes to be cryonically preserved.
Two staff members will review the foot-thick file gathered during the office's initial inquiry of the case last year, a spokesman said.
The attorney who represented John-Henry and Claudia Williams last year, Robert Goldman of Naples, said he had not been contacted to revisit the case. Eric Abel, a family lawyer, did not return phone calls.
Finding proof of alleged wrongdoings inside Alcor's facility will be tough, according to Rudy Thomas, executive director of the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. The nonprofit company is recognized under the federal Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, the law that guides organ donation organizations and research labs.
That means they aren't regulated by any state agency, Thomas said. Nationally, the Food and Drug Administration has regulation authority, but the agency doesn't perform regular inspections of these groups, he said.
This fall he will pursue legislation that would create a state-level board to regulate places such as Alcor.
"I'd love to open up all those tanks and see what they have in them," Thomas said. "Are (the bodies) actually there? How do we know? There hasn't been any complaints, because there's no one to complain to."
Alcor officials said their ex-employee's statements to Sports Illustrated are false.
Johnson began working at Alcor in January 2003, six months after Williams' death, Alcor spokeswoman Paula Lemler said. She characterized his job as "chief technical officer," not chief operating officer as Johnson identified himself on the message he posted on www.freeted.com
"Since his allegations are inaccurate and we find no instance where he has accused Alcor of any illegalities, we regard his attack as a spiteful parting shot by an employee who may have personal problems and definitely an exaggerated opinion of his own worth," Carlos Mondragon, a director of Alcor, said in a written statement.
Johnson, in his Internet statement, said it was a matter of integrity.
"There comes a time in one's life when, as an honest human being, you are thrust into a situation where you are uncomfortable, morally, ethically and professionally. I have come to that impasse in my current career," Johnson wrote.
"He is scared to death," said Heer, who also represents Johnson.
Late Tuesday night, Alcor representatives contacted the Scottsdale Police Department to register a theft report against Johnson. They accused him of stealing a company pager and cell phone, police spokesman Scott Reed said.
Agency officials called Johnson, who said he did not have the items and had made arrangements for them to be returned. No arrests were made.
"Right now, we are still waiting to see if those items are returned to Alcor," Reed said. "We are still investigating."
- Staff writer Richard Raeke and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 352 860-7312 or firstname.lastname@example.org Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (352) 860-7303 or email@example.com