Who Mutilated Dominic Marion?

On the trail of a bizarre hospital crime, New Times finds a cryogenically frozen head, a witch hunt for a wiccan and a stumped detective. And still nobody knows . . .

By all accounts, Phoenix Police Detective Ernest Moreno wasn't very excited about the Marion case. He was a homicide detective, homicide -- not a detective of corpse mutilations, which is exactly what this case appeared to be.

Moreno arrived at Heritage Funeral Chapel on November 1 with a police photographer. He talked to employees of the funeral home and Marion's family, had the photographer take some shots and looked at the mutilation. He had no experience investigating mutilations of dead bodies, but, then again, who did?

"An investigation is an investigation," said Moreno during one of his depositions. (The detective did not return calls for this story.) "You start from the very beginning, and just go until you run into a dead end."

Former Columbia Medical Center community relations coordinator Deborah Lindfors, with her pet potbellied pig, was the target of hospital rumors.
Paolo Vescia
Former Columbia Medical Center community relations coordinator Deborah Lindfors, with her pet potbellied pig, was the target of hospital rumors.
Plaintiffs' attorney Grant Woods: "The hospital blamed everybody but themselves."
Plaintiffs' attorney Grant Woods: "The hospital blamed everybody but themselves."

In the Marion case, Moreno ran into a dead end almost immediately. None of the funeral home workers acted particularly suspect. Marion had a history of cardiac trouble, his death certificate said he died of a heart attack, and Maricopa County Medical Examiner Philip Keen initially ruled that Marion's injuries were postmortem.

True, there was still somebody out there who stole Marion's genitals, but when prioritized against the honest-to-goodness homicides occurring in Phoenix every day, Moreno thought the Marion case deserved to be put on the back burner.

So the bloody sheets were thrown away and could no longer be proven or disproven to contain blood expelled by a beating heart. Room 124 was cleaned, and potential hair or fiber evidence was lost. Marion's body was cremated, meaning no toxicology test or autopsy could definitively determine cause of death.

With the main evidence destroyed and no suspect leads, the case of the mutilated corpse should have ended right there. Except Moreno had apparently missed a frightening possibility.

"The medical examiner said [the mutilation] was likely postmortem, but that only means it happened after the heart stopped beating," said attorney Christopher Hossack, who represented the mortuary. "It doesn't mean that somebody might not have done something to cause the heart to stop beating, and then did this."

Four months later, with a break in his workload and the arrival of subpoenaed documents from the hospital, Moreno tried to pick up the trail, but it was too late.

"While the police have a big file and took several statements, it was done so late in the game that they didn't have a prayer of finding out who did this," Hossack said.

Beginning in February 1995, Moreno interviewed several hospital staff members, all of whom told the same story: Nobody saw Marion's Foley catheter, nobody saw any blood on the sheets until an outsider -- Jack Taylor -- saw blood. And nobody knew who mutilated Marion.

Moreno thought he might have a lead when he interviewed DeWitt and Wiley, who cleaned Marion after the code. They were, Moreno said in a deposition, "very dry-mouthed, appeared very nervous, would not look at me whenever they were talking to me."

Moreno called in DeWitt and Wiley for a second interview, where they both strongly denied any involvement in the mutilation.

"I can't imagine any hospital employee doing it," said DeWitt, who had known Marion from one of his previous hospital stays. "Especially anyone in direct contact with him. It would be stupid. It wouldn't serve any direct purpose. There would be nothing to gain and everything to lose. Sheila and I had maybe 10 minutes' exposure to him [with] the family coming in, people looking in, the supervisor coming and looking in the room."

During Wiley's interview, she was questioned about a discrepancy between her statement and the statement Moreno received from Mary Trese. Trese told Moreno she saw Wiley cleaning Marion's "perineal area" -- his genitals and anus -- when she walked into Room 124.

"I had no reason to clean his whole body, no reason at all," Wiley told Moreno. "He's a dead person. Why should I?"

Trese had also claimed that Wiley acknowledged removing the Foley catheter.

"I don't remember no Foley, I swear to God, I don't," Wiley said. "On my mother's grave, I did not look down there."

Moreno asked Wiley and DeWitt if they would take polygraph tests. Both agreed. But for some reason, DeWitt was never tested. And when Moreno left messages with Wiley to set up an appointment, she did not return his calls.

With that, Moreno let the lie detector tests, and the Dominic Marion case, drop.

"I can't force anyone to take a polygraph," he said.

The hospital placed DeWitt and Wiley on temporary administrative leave after learning of their second police interview. DeWitt, a 42-year-old veteran of the health-care industry at the time, said being told he was on leave for suspected involvement in such a horrendous crime was "kind of like walking out into 120-degree heat from air conditioning." But to most of the non-administrative staff, DeWitt said, he and Wiley "were the butt of a joke." One co-worker put a clay penis in Wiley's employee mailbox.

In June 1997, a couple of months after Moreno's last interview, the Marion case made the Arizona Republic. The story, "Funeral Industry Faces State Scrutiny," slammed Heritage Funeral Chapel for waiting 24 hours before informing police of the mutilation. Columbia Medical Center was offhandedly mentioned as the place the mutilation probably happened. The police investigation was said to be "stymied" -- presumably because police weren't notified until the next day.

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