Woman Dealt Diseased Body Parts in Grisly Case

Her estranged husband will stand trial in April
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2016 10:06 AM CDT
Woman Dealt Diseased Body Parts in Grisly Case
Arthur Rathburn stands outside a courthouse in Detroit.   (Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press via AP)

(Newser) – A Detroit woman faces up to 10 months in prison for fraud after admitting to renting diseased body parts to researchers. Elizabeth Rathburn, 56—to be sentenced in July—also must pay $55,225 to the American Anesthesiology Association, whose researchers were told the body parts were clean, reports the Detroit Free Press. But her estranged husband, Arthur Rathburn, 62, could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted of charges related to his work as a cadaver dealer. The trade of body parts "is not, in and of itself, illegal," but "crimes have been committed," an FBI agent says in an affidavit. Under the Rathburns' company International Biological Inc., Arthur Rathburn is accused of purchasing discounted body parts infected with HIV and hepatitis B, then renting them to unsuspecting customers who could have been exposed to infection, per the Detroit News.

Arthur Rathburn worked with the University of Michigan's anatomical donation program for six years until he was fired for selling bodies in 1990. He then worked as a private dealer. Prosecutors say he cut up bodies with chainsaws "without using sanitary precautions," and kept more than 1,000 body parts at a warehouse. He's also accused of selling bodies for $5,000 on the black market. Heads were allegedly sold for $500, while arms fetched $750. In one instance, prosecutors say he shipped fresh heads—which reportedly sat in pools of blood inside coolers—on a commercial plane. Rathburn faces charges including wire fraud, making false statements, and transporting hazardous materials at trial on April 5, per Reuters. His wife "will assist the government with any knowledge that she has," her lawyer says. "Her life has been ruined largely in part because of her association with Mr. Rathburn." (Read more Michigan stories.)

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