A Pennsylvania man who collected and preserved human remains pleaded guilty on Thursday to his role in an alleged wide-ranging scheme to traffic human body parts from Harvard Medical School.
Jeremy Pauley, 41, is facing up to 15 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property for knowingly buying and selling human remains that were stolen from the Harvard Medical School morgue, according to court documents.
Pauley is among seven people who have been charged in connection to the alleged thefts from the Harvard morgue, which authorities said took place from 2018 to early 2023. A civil lawsuit involving donors’ families is also ongoing.
In an email to HuffPost, Johnathan White, Pauley’s attorney, said his client’s actions do not define him.
“We believe that people can make poor choices, but that does not define them,” White said. “Mr. Pauley has accepted responsibility for his poor choices, and he looks forward to the opportunity to provide the court with all mitigating circumstances at the appropriate time.”
Prosecutors said that Pauley had knowingly bought a variety of stolen remains and body parts including bones, skulls, skin, dissected faces, heads and internal organs, also referred to as “wets,” from Harvard and the University of Arkansas Medical School.
Pauley then sold some of those stolen remains on Facebook to other collectors or those with a similar fascination for human remains. He also agreed in 2021 to tan human chest skin into leather for Katrina Maclean, a client who is also charged in connection to the alleged trafficking ring.
In return for Pauley’s tanning services, Maclean agreed to pay him in more human skin she bought from Cedric Lodge, the then-manager of the morgue at Harvard Medical School, who stole human body parts meant for research, and kept them at his home, prosecutors said. (Maclean and Lodge have pleaded not guilty, and their case is ongoing.)
According to prosecutors, Pauley shipped the tanned human skin to Maclean in Massachusetts and a month later, she shipped human skin to Pauley. She then allegedly asked if it had arrived, saying, “wanted to make sure it got to you and I don’t expect agents at my door.”
In October 2021, Pauley sent $8,800 to Maclean through PayPal for payments for stolen human remains.
Prosecutors said Pauley would later meet Candace Chapman Scott, who worked at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she transported, cremated and embalmed human remains. Scott has also pleaded not guilty to 12 charges against her.
Scott initially messaged Pauley asking if he or anyone he knew was interested in purchasing a fully intact embalmed brain, according to court documents. Pauley responded that he was interested in buying the brain, as well as a heart, and agreed to pay $1,200 through PayPal.
Over the course of months, Pauley would continue to pay Scott hundreds and thousands of dollars for more stolen body parts including more skin, brains and limbs, and another $300 for a stillborn baby boy Scott was assigned to cremate, prosecutors said.
During that time, Pauley sold and traded body parts to others who have come under scrutiny from federal authorities, including James Nott.
Nott was arrested in July on firearm charges, and after a search, federal agents said they discovered at least 40 skulls “decorated” his Kentucky home. No charges have been filed against Nott in connection with the human remains found in his possession.
Pauley addressed the charges against him in a now-deleted post on Facebook, saying most states allow for the sale of human remains. He defended his collection and others who shared his hobby.
“Now I completely understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I understand that some people don’t show the respect others would like to see. But in my time I have met some of the most intelligent, wholesome, and respectful people you could meet,” Pauley wrote.
Lodge and three other defendants charged in connection with the alleged thefts are scheduled to go on trial in December.