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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Case of Crematory Operator Stirs Emotions

Aired February 23, 2002 - 07:16   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In northwest Georgia, authorities have now found almost 300 bodies dumped in a crematory -- or near it, I should say. Relatives who thought they'd put their loved ones to rest are now grappling with a new flood of emotions, new grief and some anger at the crematory operator, to say the least.

CNN's Art Harris has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Norma Hutton asked to be cremated. When she died in December, her daughter, Lisa, brought home the ashes and put them beside Norma's husband.

(on camera): What did you tell your kids?

LISA CASH, DAUGHTER: I told them that was their grandma and grandpa. So -- and then when this took place, my kids couldn't understand. If Grandma was right there on the table, how could she be down there too?

HARRIS (voice-over): "Down there" was Tristate Crematory. Her body was among the first to be found. Rusty Cash got the call.

RUSTY CASH, SON-IN-LAW: He said that it was on the property in a barn. They found her in a shed.

HARRIS: Embalmed, her body was easy to identify.

LISA CASH: She was in blue PJs. Her hair was fixed the same way, everything. She looked just like she looked the day -- the last time I thought I saw her.

HARRIS: So what was in the urn on the table at home?

RUSTY CASH: They say that it was powdered cement with little bitty rocks in it.

HARRIS: Her case is one of the first 16 counts of fraud filed against the man in charge of cremating her, Brent Marsh (ph), hustled into court under heavy guard, in handcuffs and a bullet-proof vest.

His lawyer argued Marsh is charged only with theft, not murder.

MCCRACKEN POSTON, DEFENSE LAWYER: Nobody got killed up at that Tristate Crematory.

HARRIS: The defense asked that Marsh be let out on bond. The magistrate delayed a ruling and sent Marsh back to jail.

With the body count close to 300, the sheriff said he was concerned for Marsh's safety if released.

RUSTY CASH: We're never going to forget. We want the maximum that we can get, put this man behind bars. And that won't be enough.

HARRIS: This time, Rusty Cash went to the funeral home to see for himself that his mother-in-law was finally cremated.

RUSTY CASH: Here's your mom.

HARRIS: His wife, Lisa, coming to terms with sorrow a second time around.

(on camera): And your plans now for her? Where will you put her, and what will you do with her?

LISA CASH: I will put her back in the front room on the end table where she was and explain to the -- my kids that this is Granny for real.

HARRIS: As more bodies are found in these woods, more charges are expected to be filed against Marsh. The prosecution wants to keep him in jail until trial, and, like the families, for a long time after that.

Art Harris, CNN, Walker County, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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