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Grave robbers haul off titanium

Two are arrested in the theft of the surgical implants that survive cremation.

By Abhi Raghunathan, Times Staff Writer
Published March 1, 2008


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Vincent Marlyne, 42, faces felony charges of injuring or removing a tomb or monument and disturbing the contents of a grave or tomb.

Jack McWilliams, 19, used to work at the cemetery.

ST. PETERSBURG - A few weeks ago, workers at the Memorial Park Cemetery discovered a horrific theft.

Someone had broken into two unmarked vaults, where the metal remnants of surgical instruments - like those used in shoulder and hip replacements - are kept after people have been cremated. In all, 1,500 pounds of titanium were missing.

On Friday, the Sheriff's Office arrested two men in connection with the theft: Jack McWilliams, 19, a former cemetery worker, and Vincent Marlyne, 42.

Both men face felony charges of injuring or removing a tomb or monument and disturbing the contents of a grave or tomb.

"We were absolutely appalled," said Robert Simpson, the director of operations at Memorial Park. "These metal objects - we've always felt they are sacred."

The Sheriff's Office said McWilliams and Marlyne carried out the heist on Jan. 26. The two men arrived at the cemetery at 5750 49th Street N in a truck and drove up to the two concrete vaults. The cemetery planned to eventually bury the vaults containing the metal objects after they were filled, Simpson said.

The two vaults, roughly the size of caskets, are depressed in the ground. The metal inside included surgical parts left over from cremations. Each vault held metal from numerous people.

A surgical joint implant often weighs one to three pounds.

The Sheriff's Office says Marlyne and McWilliams pried open the caskets, loaded he metal into their truck and drove away. They tried selling the metal in Pinellas but couldn't find any buyers, Barreda said. So the men drove to Tampa on Jan. 28 and sold the metal as scrap for about $1,500. They split the money.

Cecilia Barreda, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said interviews with cemetery employees led detectives to Marlyne and McWilliams, both of whom live in St. Petersburg. Both men admitted the crime, Barreda said.

Barreda said McWilliams maintained he hadn't done anything improper. He was arrested Thursday; Marlyne was arrested Friday.

"He stated that he didn't know that it was wrong to take metals as they were buried into the ground," Barreda said.

Last week, two funeral urns were stolen from the Royal Palm Cemetery at 101 55th St. S in St. Petersburg. Police think at least one person broke into a mausoleum at the cemetery Monday night, smashed the glass compartments and took the urns containing the ashes of Igor Ballin and Sandra Mulroney. Many other compartments in the mausoleum were untouched.

The building also was vandalized on the outside. Bronze plaques and metal flower holders were ripped from the walls.

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.

Anyone with information about the Royal Palm theft can call police at (727) 893-7780.

How to help

Anyone with information about the Royal Palm theft can call police at (727) 893-7780.

 

[Last modified February 29, 2008, 21:12:39]


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