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 . . .

McCrary also believes Marion was preselected for this crime -- that his fragile heart, immobilized condition and easily accessible room made him a perfect victim.

"I can't say that the person killed him," McCrary said. "But what are the chances this person just happened into this room and this person just died? It would be a helluva coincidence."

So did the mutilator frighten Marion into a heart attack? Drug him? Take a choice opportunity after his death? The suspect list began to flux as more experts and witnesses were interviewed:

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.

• Heritage Funeral Chapel employees Eisenhour and Taylor were out -- too many hospital staffers swore in their depositions that they saw a significant amount of blood when Marion was removed from Room 124.

• Gore was still possible -- "[Gore] had access, knowledge and surgical supplies . . . [and] was alone with the body," argued plaintiffs' counsel. But Gore seemed increasingly unlikely, given that experts said the blood on the sheets appeared too oxygenated, and in too much quantity, for the mutilation to have occurred when Gore was present, more than five hours after death. Besides, "There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Gore is perverted," wrote Donor Network of Arizona attorneys.

• The family was also a possibility, and a controversial one at that.

"Of all outrageous things the hospital did in its desire to win a lawsuit as opposed to catch a criminal, [the worst] was their decision to try to implicate the family," said McGovern, referring to Columbia employee statements suspecting family members and court filings that list the family as potential suspects.

While it's true Marion's relatives were in the room for a significant period of time, none had surgical knowledge. And they decided to have Marion embalmed instead of cremated -- almost ensuring the mutilation's discovery. Plus, they've relentlessly pushed for investigation of the case, and no family member fits McCrary's profile.

More and more, it seemed as if the mutilation must have occurred in the early-morning hours of Halloween. Which also meant that the perpetrator wasn't necessarily someone who had contact with Marion after the resuscitation effort. It might be somebody entirely new. Somebody who worked at the hospital, but just wasn't seen in Room 124 that morning.

"I was awake for 40 hours pacing the floor of my house, just rolling everything back, all through my head," said Nurse DeWitt. "Who would have a motive? I just kept going back and forth, back and forth.

"And then, all of a sudden a light bulb lit up, and I go, 'Ding! The witch. The witch.'"

The Unusual Suspects

The Marion mutilation was first-rate workplace gossip, and Columbia Medical Center staffers were no less prone to discussing this real-life whodunit than anybody else. One choice bit of rumor was that a member of the Heritage mortuary staff had a history of necrophilia. When attorneys chased that gossip to its source, McGovern said it turned out that the employee had simply soaped and stroked a corpse's penis in an attempt to entertain a female co-worker, who was not amused.

Many Columbia employees assumed the mutilator must have been a member of Marion's family, or maybe the organ donor technician. Among the relatively small and often close-knit Columbia staff, it was difficult to believe a co-worker might have done such a thing.

Still, unchecked hospital gossip led investigating attorneys to target two more hospital employees.

After DeWitt told Detective Moreno about "the witch," attorneys for the plaintiffs and the Donor Network of Arizona subpoenaed Deborah Lindfors, the rehab unit community relations coordinator, for deposition. They also requested her employee file from Columbia attorneys -- who refused, chiding them for attempting to violate the privacy of an employee who had not been identified as a police suspect.

But at first glance, Lindfors certainly looked interesting.

Lindfors was not on duty during the window of opportunity, but she had evaluated Marion for transfer from the cardiac monitoring fifth floor to the rehab unit. She said she doesn't remember meeting Marion, but "probably did" during his evaluation on October 30. Getting access to Marion later would not have been a problem.

"Anybody could get into a hospital late at night," she told New Times.

And then there were the rumors that Lindfors practiced witchcraft, which sounded all too perfect -- a Halloween mutilation by a witch.

Upon closer examination, though, Lindfors' involvement seemed less than likely.

First, there's nothing in the Wicca doctrine that endorses mutilation. "Wiccans don't get into violent desecration-type stuff; that's just not them," said Halloween and witchcraft expert Joseph Edgette, a professor at Widener University. "I have never heard of that sort of mutilation associated with Halloween, never."

The only religion that actively endorses human mutilation is an Afro-Caribbean cult from South America called Palo Mayombe, said Vancouver detective Charles A. Ennis, author of Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca and Wiccan Warrior. In the Palo Mayombe belief system, practitioners invoke magical spells using parts of animals and humans to create a malevolent spirit they can control.

Then again, noted Ennis, religion is eminently adaptable. "People who are using the religious component in criminality can pick little pieces from any number of different religions, or traditions, that might mean something to them that wouldn't mean anything to anybody else," he said. "They'll pick up pieces to put into their [belief] structure to rationalize what they're doing."

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