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19 Baby Corpses in Garage

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Ex-funeral director held in abuse of baby corpses


Thursday, October 20, 2005

By Jonathan D. Silver, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


As soon as they set foot in the McKeesport garage of a former funeral director, investigators knew they were dealing with death. The odor was awful. And the stacked boxes from which the smell was emanating were clearly labeled as fetal remains.


But it wasn't until the Allegheny County coroner's office opened the boxes that they learned some of the remains were not fetuses. They were actually babies -- 19 in all -- who had been born and had lived for a short time.


Their tiny diapers and caps gave it away.


Yesterday, following a months-long process of poring over medical records and matching remains with cases at Magee-Womens Hospital, Allegheny County Police charged Robert B. Winston Jr. with theft by deception and 19 counts of abuse of a corpse.


Police alleged that Mr. Winston, the onetime owner of Newman-Winston Memorial Chapel, violated a contract with the Oakland hospital to pick up fetal remains and treat them in a "respectful and dignified manner" by having them cremated.


Instead, police said, Mr. Winston stacked boxes of remains in his garage from 1999 through early 2002. In doing so, Mr. Winston earned roughly $9,000 from Magee.


"From what I can tell, Mr. Winston seemed to have been engaged in sort of a slow, downward spiral, financially, personally, professionally. And I think that basically he got into a situation where he got behind and he was never in a position to catch up," Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli said yesterday.


"Obviously, he was in a situation where there was a profit margin there. How much of a profit margin, I don't know," Mr. Tranquilli said,


The remains were discovered Aug. 26 in the garage of Mr. Winston's former home in the 1800 block of Evans Avenue.


On that day, Winston's ex-wife, Renee Brooks, asked police to force open the garage door, for which she did not have a key, so she could check work files Winston told her he had left there, according to a police affidavit.


Ms. Brooks contacted police after finding a box with 105 unsigned cremation permits. That discovery made her uneasy, the affidavit said, because she knew that the permits were typically signed by a crematory and copies forwarded to the proper authorities.


Once inside, Ms. Brooks and the McKeesport police officers found the fetal remains. It was later determined that there were 27 cardboard boxes holding hundreds of biohazard containers.


Nineteen of the containers held infant corpses, 179 had remains of fetuses older than 16 weeks, 154 held fetal remains under 16 weeks gestation, and 253 had autopsy remains, the affidavit said.


The next day, Allegheny County Police contacted Mr. Winston, who cooperated and was interviewed in the presence of his attorney, James Ecker.


"According to Winston, he had a contract with Magee-Womens Hospital since the year 1993 and that he would collect fetal remains from the hospital as many as three times a week for a fee and have them cremated on a monthly basis," the affidavit said.


"Winston admitted that he stowed away those fetal remains since he fell on financial hard times in the year 2003, and he stated that he placed the remains in the garage at 1830 Evans Ave. since some time in 2004," according to the affidavit.


Neither Mr. Winston nor his attorney provided any further explanation yesterday. The former funeral director turned himself in at the offices of McKeesport District Judge Thomas S. Brletic.


Janet Mrzlack, 40, of the South Side, applauded the criminal charges against Mr. Winston. Mrs. Mrzlack had several miscarriages at Magee from 1999 to 2002 and wondered if any of the remains in the garage were her babies. She said she was told by the coroner that because some of the remains were commingled, she might never know.


"I think that's a good thing," Mrs. Mrzlack said of Mr. Winston's arrest. "He deserves what he gets, and I'm glad that he turned himself in. As for closure, that's not going to happen."


Mr. Winston, 61, standing tall and looking dignified in a navy blue suit and glasses, answered Judge Brletic politely during his arraignment.


In arguing for a reduced bond, Mr. Ecker told Judge Brletic that his client had no criminal record, had an honorable discharge from the military as a sergeant, suffered from a disability and had cooperated with authorities.


Judge Brletic released Mr. Winston on a $100,000 unsecured bond and ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at the Allegheny County Jail's behavior clinic.


"He has led an exemplary life until this particular time," Mr. Ecker told reporters after the arraignment, as Mr. Winston stood by his side with a stoic expression. Mr. Ecker added that he hoped his client would be granted a second chance.


Mr. Winston once served on McKeesport's Civil Service Commission, was a member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and volunteered for various boards and organizations.


But he has since fallen on hard times. In March 2004, the state Board of Funeral Directors fined Mr. Winston $3,000 and suspended his license for three years. He now lives in public housing. And Mr. Winston's ex-wife initiated divorce proceedings earlier this year. Their divorce was finalized in July. Ms. Brooks had also filed two petitions for protection-from-abuse orders against Mr. Winston in 1999 and 2004.


Mr. Tranquilli said the district attorney's office decided not to charge Mr. Winston with abuse of a corpse in cases of stillbirths or miscarriages. The decision had less to do with concern that the issue was potentially politically sensitive and more to do with taking a pragmatic approach, he explained.


"Rather than muddy the waters up, we decided to go with our common sense. Really, there was very little guidance as far as case law goes. We weren't trying to break new ground," Mr. Tranquilli said. "This was one of those cases where we had 19 confirmed live births. I just think at a certain point you say, 'OK, well, we've got this guy dead to rights.' "


A preliminary hearing for Mr. Winston is scheduled for Nov. 7 before Judge Brletic.

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Cnn had it on the news ticker too.



pretty disgusting, me and a friend were conversing as to how he would put them there, rox by row, or just toss em in like dirty clothes in a hamper.

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god damn, motherfuckers need some better porno or hobbies in their lives.

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Originally posted by boner@Oct 20 2005, 03:32 PM

i thought this was gonna be about a new death metal band..




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he could of gotten out of his financial hardships by selling those babies to chinese people, so they can eat them

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the reason he was stockpiling the babies was because of the financial hardship, he saved alot of money by just keeping them instead of having them cremated. It happens more often than youd want to know.

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