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 . . .

Frustrated, the Marion family increasingly looked to attorneys and crime specialists to help catch the mutilator.

The Profiler

Ann Marion hired the law offices of Leonard, Clancy & McGovern to prepare a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Columbia Medical Center, Heritage Funeral Chapel and the Donor Network of Arizona -- a three-pronged assault made necessary, Tom McGovern maintains, because of the hospital's insistence that the crime either occurred at the funeral home or was the handiwork of harvester Stephen Gore. Despite the family's belief that the mutilation occurred at the hospital before they (or Gore) arrived, the plaintiffs kept the other two defendants in the lawsuit until the hospital would agree the other parties were not at fault.

A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.
A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.
A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.
A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.

The Marion family also offered a $10,000 reward and set up an information hot line. The hospital pledged an additional $10,000, and police offered $2,000 through their Silent Witness program. The hot line never rang.

Much more promising were the clues from interviews with forensic and law-enforcement experts.

After seeing photos of the bloody hospital sheets, Keen, the ME who examined Marion, changed his assessment of the wounds to "perimortem," meaning they could have been inflicted at the time of death.

Parakrama Chandrasoma, a Los Angeles forensic expert who later testified at the trial, reinforced Keen's conclusion. "If you make an incision [into the penis] 15 to 20 minutes after death, the amount of bleeding will be less than what is seen in these photographs," he said.

A counter-expert from Michigan hired by the hospital swore in his deposition that the mutilation absolutely must have occurred at the funeral home, saying he saw embalming fluid in the photos of the bloody sheets. The expert quickly removed himself once McGovern asked him how he could explain all the hospital witnesses who saw blood during the body's removal -- the expert had apparently never been shown those depositions.

"He looked at the [hospital counsel] like, 'What are you doing?'" McGovern said. (Counsel for the hospital would comment to New Times only on the outcome of the trial and said they were not authorized by the hospital to discuss any other details of the case.)

None of the forensic experts, however, offered insight as intriguing as the analysis by Gregg McCrary, a distinguished former FBI profiler who consulted in the JonBenet Ramsey murder and the Dr. Sam Sheppard case (a.k.a. The Fugitive case).

McCrary had been to Phoenix before, in 1991, to assist in the investigation of the robbery murders at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist temple. Looking over the Marion case, he found a mystery that was both fascinating and frustrating.

"It's the type of case that makes me wish I had my badge back. I'd like to investigate this," he said. "I'm not here to beat up on the Phoenix P.D., but there are a lot of things that weren't done that should have been done, that may have yielded some answers. There's no reason not to go in there, interview with all those folks, put them on a polygraph and see which way the needles jump."

"The answer," McCrary said, "is someplace in that hospital."

Marion's mortician described the mutilation this way: "Imagine for a moment you have grasped the scrotum, testicles and penis in the grip of one hand, and lifted everything up, and at the base of the scrotum you made jagged cuts."

McCrary said those jagged cuts were so surgically efficient that the perpetrator was most likely a medical professional.

"It looks to me as if it was somebody who has done this, or something similar, before," McCrary said. "When you look at crimes where killers engage in mutilation, you can almost always tell the early ones because they're sloppy and hesitant and don't know what they're doing."

A person who steals human genitals derives a sexual thrill from possessing sex organs as trophies, he said. The organs are often preserved in formaldehyde or in a refrigerator. It is a fetish crime like those committed by Jerry Brudos -- a Portland serial killer who cut off women's breasts and feet. Brudos would take the parts home, keep them his freezer, then put the dismembered feet in shoes and masturbate. Such a criminal is usually mentally disordered, but knows right from wrong.

"It is the ultimate sexual experience for them. They appreciate the wrongfulness in what they are doing, but they like to do it anyway," McCrary said. "And we know from studying these individuals that they don't stop of their own volition. When another opportunity arises, they will do this again."

In the Marion case, the mutilator could be either male or female, McCrary said ("There's nothing there that points me one way or another"), and was definitely cautious -- taking care to cover the wound and avoid discovery.

"I couldn't rule out a stranger, but it was more likely than not a person that had a legitimate reason to be there, who would know that that patient was alone in that room, who had the tools, who would know how to make up a hospital bed so that it looked right."

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