By Stephen Lemons
By Weston Phippen
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Stephen Lemons
By New Times Staff
By Stephen Lemons
Larry Pohorily thought mortician Mark Eisenhour was playing some sort of sick joke. What Eisenhour told him on the phone couldn't be true. Pohorily drove to the funeral home, wanting to see the corpse for himself.
Eisenhour met Pohorily at the door, then led him back into the embalming room. On a stainless steel table lay the ashen body of a 300-pound man. The white name band on his left wrist identified him as Dominic Marion.
Just as Eisenhour had said, the man's genitals were gone. Four precise cuts had removed the penis and scrotum. There were no hesitation cuts, and the hospital sheets that had accompanied the supposed heart attack victim were soaked with blood.
The blood was a problem. The partial embalming job by Eisenhour was another.
As manager of the Anatomic Gift Foundation, Pohorily had experience removing human genitalia for scientific research. Only a small portion of blood leaks from a body after a postmortem emasculation. The significant amount of bright red, oxygenated blood on the sheets meant the mutilation occurred suspiciously close to the man's death.
Eisenhour's embalming further complicated matters. The mortician had chemically sutured the wound so liquid wouldn't spill out when he pumped preserving fluid into Marion's body. Suturing alters potential forensic evidence.
Pohorily asked Eisenhour what he had been thinking.
Eisenhour replied that he thought the cuts might have been an emergency procedure.
"An emergency?" Pohorily asked. "What sort of emergency might that be?"
Eisenhour noted that the mortuary's transport driver, an ex-cop, thought it might have been an extreme case of testicular cancer. Or maybe the organ donor tech who harvested Marion's eyes had also taken the genitals by mistake.
Pohorily didn't think so.
He had spent 30 years in the death-care industry and had never seen -- never even heard of -- anything like this before. It was definitely a violent act. It could be murder.
Pohorily called the Phoenix Police Department's homicide detail and received yet another surprise.
"Get this," Pohorily said. "The police said: 'Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. I don't know if there's any law about cutting somebody's parts off.' They said there's nothing in the books about if something happens to the dead. And I said: 'Uh, I think there is.'"
Pohorily called the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office and explained the problem. A pathologist told him to call the police back and tell them that, yes, cutting off a man's genitals is a crime.
Pohorily did. The homicide unit assigned a detective. And the search for who mutilated Dominic Marion had begun.
30 Hours Earlier: Halloween, 1996
Dominic Marion dozed in his hospital bed, minutes away from the end of his life.Although his surgery was nine days ago, Marion's knees were still double barrels of immobilizing inconvenience and pain. Constant Passive Motion machines kept his joints moving so they wouldn't stiffen up, but they also made it difficult to sleep. Around midnight, his nurse had switched off the CPM machines, giving his knees a rest and allowing him to drift off.
The doctors had called Marion's surgery a "bilateral total knee arthroplasty for osteoarthritis." For the 58-year-old chemical distributor, it was the latest entry on a surgical résumé that included three heart bypasses, balloon angioplasty and a hip replacement. This operation was particularly important to Marion. His daughter's wedding was planned for the next year, and he had told his wife, "I'm going to be able to walk down that aisle without a cane."
As he lay in bed, the pain rose to the surface, then sank back down, at nearly the same intervals as the visits from his attending nurse. The nurse monitored his vitals and checked his Foley catheter, a urinary waste tube that runs through the penis. When his pain welled up, the nurse would administer Vicodin, easing him into a narcotic-assisted sleep, the faint traffic from Thomas Road sighing outside. Next to him was another patient bed, which was empty. Marion thought he lucked out by getting a double room all to himself.
As he drifted, Marion could not possibly know that he was about to achieve a bizarre, posthumous fame; that he was entering "Window One" in a timeline of criminal opportunity in which he was the victim; that police photos of his soon-to-be deceased body would be so horrific, a jury assembled years later would wince and turn away upon their presentation.
After his death, Marion's wife and children would never celebrate Halloween again.
At a quarter to 5 a.m., Marion would be discovered dead in Room 124 in the rehab unit of the now-defunct Columbia Medical Center Phoenix -- then owned by HCA Healthcare, the nation's largest hospital chain.
His surgically precise mutilation would be discovered the next day at the Heritage Funeral Chapel.
From interviews, depositions, police interviews and court filings, New Times has reconstructed the known narrative of events from that morning, as well as the subsequent police and legal investigation and eventual wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the hospital by Marion's family.
To this day, it is not known conclusively whether the mutilation occurred while Marion was still alive or after he died.
"If you go back to the medieval villages, it's crimes like this that gave rise to the myths of werewolves and monsters that come out at night," said former FBI criminal profiler Gregg McCrary. "In some little village, they'd find some body horribly mutilated in the morning, and they'd figure that it must have been some monster, that no human being would be capable of committing such a horrific crime. In fact, we know now that people are perfectly capable of committing these horrific crimes while appearing, in many respects, quite normal."
The "mutilation timeline" begins around 4 a.m., with Marion asleep in his bed, just before his nurse returned to check on her patient. Her call of alarm woke up the rehab unit and began a sequence of events that has been scrutinized for years, yet still leaves a baffling whodunit unsolved. Due to police indifference, hospital negligence and morbid coincidence, a wide window of opportunity was created at the hospital where everybody who came in contact with Marion that Halloween morning -- including nurses, an organ donor harvester and a mortuary driver -- would come under suspicion.
Remembers one Columbia Medical Center staffer during her police interview: "It was a crazy night. It was a crazy, crazy night..."
Some health-care workers say they are able to sense when they have lost a patient as soon as they enter a room. Before they check for a pulse, even before they arrive at the patient's bedside, they somehow know they are in the room alone.
It was Mary Trese's fourth workday at Columbia Medical Center when she discovered Dominic Marion dead. She said later in a deposition that she is familiar with that eerie sense of a patient's passing, but had no premonition that he was gone.
Trese was a 24-year-old temporary nurse with American Mobile Nursing who had just started a new assignment in Phoenix. The day before, one of her patients had "gone bad" -- coded -- and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and died. Marion had been transferred to rehab from the "Hearts at Rest" cardiac monitoring unit the night before.
At 4:43, Trese went through the wooden door of Room 124.
"Mr. Marion?" she asked, and touched his chest.
Marion was unresponsive. No pulse.
Trese ran into the hall: "Code blue!"
Within minutes, about a dozen hospital employees filled Room 124.
Somebody got the crash cart. Somebody got the cardiac monitor. Out came the defibrillator. Out came the syringes. The crash team tried to intubate -- get a plastic air tube down Marion's throat -- but could not. His neck was thick and stiff.
And then, more rehab unit confusion.
The patient in Room 133 was going "light crazy" -- hitting his call button.
And the patient in the room next to Marion's, another of Trese's, began having chest pains, prompting a second code blue.
Through the frenetic blur of multiple emergencies, the crash team continued to work on Marion for about 15 minutes. Then, at 5:10 a.m., Dominic Marion was pronounced dead. Cause of death was a "probable myocardial infarction as a consequence of coronary disease" -- a heart attack.
Which made sense. Marion, after all, had survived several previous heart attacks. Even a minor strain could have put him over. The pain in his knees, a nightmare . . . any unexpected shock.
The crash team dispersed.
With so many people in the room, the mutilation could not have occurred during the resuscitation period. On that point, everyone agrees. But were Marion's genitals removed before the code, or after?
Nobody in the crash team specifically remembers looking underneath Marion's sheets, which were at his waistline during the code. And nobody remembers seeing Marion's Foley catheter tube and bag, even though the presence of a Foley had been noted on his chart during Trese's midnight rounds. This would become the crime's central paradox: If the mutilation happened before the code, could the hospital staff really not notice a wound or see any blood? And if it happened after the code, how does one explain the missing Foley catheter and the (eventually discovered) bloodstained sheets that experts said were consistent with a wound made near the time of death?
Once Marion was declared dead, there were new priorities for the hospital staff.
Trese reluctantly made the "death notice call" to Marion's wife. Later, Marion's daughter would see Trese crying and being consoled by the hospital chaplain.
They changed Marion's topmost sheet, wiped the defibrillator gel off his chest, picked up wrappers and syringes that litter a room after a code. Wiley washed Marion's face, combed his hair and put out a box of Kleenex. They pulled out his saline IV tube, removed the gown from around his chest and replaced it.
DeWitt and Wiley were in the room about 15 minutes with the door closed. For a few moments, Wiley was in the room alone.
When they were finished, Marion looked peaceful, as if he had simply fallen into a deep sleep.
DeWitt and Wiley would become prime suspects in the police investigation into Marion's mutilation. Like everybody else who participated in the crash code, DeWitt and Wiley insisted they never looked below Marion's waist or saw his apparently absent Foley catheter.
"We just lost somebody," DeWitt said later in a police interview. "I mean, you don't think of going in there and mutilating someone after that. It just doesn't enter your mind."
Just before 7 a.m., Ann Marion and three of her adult children began to arrive to pay their final respects to Dominic Marion.
When Ann walked into Room 124 and saw her husband, she thought something very peculiar. Then she put the thought away.
The family would remain at the hospital for about four hours. It was a strikingly long time, a period that would later lead to whispering by hospital employees -- Maybe the wife did it; so-and-so heard they fought when she visited; somebody said he threw a water pitcher at her.
When asked by attorneys about the length of her visit, Ann Marion acknowledged that they were at the hospital for several hours. But there always seemed to be yet another person to wait for, another call to make. And besides, "I just didn't want to leave him," she said.
One of Marion's sons, Glenn, had other concerns in Room 124. He could see a vague discoloration underneath the sheet in Marion's groin area and a couple drops of blood on the top sheet.
Glenn thought the shadow might be expelled waste or pubic hair, and says he requested another sheet from an unidentified passing nurse, who oddly refused. It was a shadow he would describe as "something that is dark and ominous beyond the sheet."
At 10 a.m., the next suspect in the mutilation timeline arrived at Columbia.
Stephen Gore is a clean-cut, mild-voiced organ harvester for the Donor Network of Arizona, the state's federally designated organ procurement organization. His mother had been one of the first eye harvesters in Arizona.
All Columbia medical personnel have access to professional surgical instruments, but Gore was the only person during the timeline of opportunity who acknowledges performing surgery on Marion. In his enucleation kit, Gore carries a mask, gloves, blood tubes, syringes, topical antibodies, an eye muscle hook, an eye speculum, forceps, three pairs of scissors, ice, a four-by-eight-inch Tupperware container and small eye jars.
The procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Melanie Ball, an RN, poked her head into the room and asked Gore how things were going.
"Do you want to watch?" Gore asked from behind the privacy curtain.
"No thanks," Ball said.
About the same time Gore was collecting Marion's eyes, Marion's family made a crucial decision. Marion was scheduled for cremation, but a priest said the body needed to be embalmed and prepared for a viewing if his remains were to be present at a Catholic Mass -- an item of church dogma that has since changed. Marion's family agreed. Their reversal was crucial because if the body had been cremated as planned, it is likely the mutilation never would have been discovered.
Around noon, an ex-police officer named Jack Taylor arrived to transport the body to Heritage Funeral Chapel. Taylor was the last known person to have private access to Marion. A security guard escorted Taylor and his gurney to Room 124, where Taylor quickly sized up the job.
First, the linens had to go. The usual routine is to remove hospital sheets, then cover a body with sheets from the mortuary for transport. Hospitals are fussy about death-care workers taking valuable linens. As Pohorily put it, "It's a big deal to them. You got a million people dying, that's a million sheets gone."
Taylor pulled off the top blanket covering Marion and found an ugly sight: a lopsided circle of blood had soaked through the sheet from below.
"There was no way I was going to mess with that," Taylor remembers. He decided to simply take the bundle of hospital bedding that contained Marion rather than unwrap him.
It took three or four tries to move Marion to the gurney, with several hospital employees hefting the weight. Two nurses got on top of the bed for better positioning. As they lifted, a pool of blood was revealed under the body. The stain extended from Marion's mid-back to his buttocks. More blood dripped onto a nurse's shoe.
No one looked under the sheet; nobody raised any questions about the blood.
Taylor ushered the body into the mortuary van and drove to Heritage Funeral Chapel. It took Taylor about an hour longer than usual to make the trip, a gap that attorneys later called suspicious.
When Taylor arrived, Eisenhour was waiting, gloves on.
Eisenhour pulled off the stained top sheets. Underneath was Marion. His gown was up around his chest, unsoiled. The absorbent, quilted "chuck pad," or "geri pad," underneath the body was red and wet. The pad was pulled up between Marion's legs and over his groin, as if to cover a wound.
Eisenhour pulled it back, and stared.
He called to Taylor: "Look at this."
A Body of Evidence
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."
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.
Frustrated, the Marion family increasingly looked to attorneys and crime specialists to help catch the mutilator.
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.
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."
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:
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."
Unfailingly polite and sensitive, Lindfors certainly seems more like a good witch than a bad witch.
But she says she's not a witch at all.
Lindfors said she took a world religion class at a community college, then discussed what she learned about Wicca from an actual witchcraft practitioner who worked in hospital purchasing. That's it. "Rumors fly around the hospital," Lindfors said with a sigh.
During her deposition, plaintiff attorney Kenneth Clancy grilled Lindfors about whether she was a member of a coven.
Then, about midway through the interview, he switched tactics and began sweetly inquiring about her 17 pets, including two potbellied pigs she was rehabilitating for a local animal hospital.
An attorney for the Columbia Medical Center, Renee Coury, seemed surprised at Clancy's knowledge of animal rehabilitation and asked him about it.
"You may find that I'm a bit of a softhearted person," Clancy said. "I'm sorry I'm taking so much time, but I find this interesting . . . . Which is your favorite animal?"
Lindfors: "My potbellied pig."
Clancy: "Which one? "
Clancy: "And what's the other one's name?"
Clancy: "Wesley is a male?"
Clancy: "If you took your potbellied pig Wesley to Mountain View Animal Hospital, or any other facility you had confidence in, and you received a call saying that Wesley was dead and they didn't know the circumstances, but only that Wesley had been mutilated, do you have any sense as to what your reaction would be?"
Deborah Lindfors later left the deposition room in tears, the apparent victim of a witch hunt.
The second victim of gossip at Columbia was a surgical nurse named Rhonda Iacuzzo, whose bizarre and ill-fated love affair made her an unavoidable target of suspicion in the Marion case.
In the fall of 1994, Iacuzzo (who did not comment for this story) attended a cryogenics seminar in Riverside, California. Until then, her interest in cryopreservation had been mostly academic. She was an active volunteer at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation facility in Scottsdale, where she prepared small lab animals for freezing process tests.
At the Riverside seminar, she met a man who changed her life. Paul Genteman, the emcee of the event, was a longtime believer in cryogenics, having made arrangements in the 1970s to have his head frozen for preservation (in hopes of eventual revival, attached to a cloned body).
Iacuzzo and Genteman fell in love and began a long-distance relationship -- Iacuzzo traveling to Genteman's home in San Jose, Genteman flying to Phoenix.
But their future together was uncertain, as Genteman was gravely ill. His affliction was Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
Saying an operation might help him, Iacuzzo convinced Genteman to undergo surgery at Columbia Medical Center on Christmas Eve, 1994. She assisted in the operation, then attended to him as he recovered at her home.
A couple days into the new year, Genteman's condition suddenly deteriorated, and Iacuzzo took him back to Columbia. He died of complications from Crohn's disease on January 3, 1995. Iacuzzo was at his side.
Once Genteman was dead, Iacuzzo knew she had to move quickly.
She got Genteman's body into an ambulance and rode with him to the Alcor facility. There she drained his blood with a bypass pump and replaced it with fluids of greater and greater consistency to squeeze the water from his cells. Then she added the "cocktail of medications" that is used to help preserve tissue during cryogenic freezing.
Iacuzzo said she did not view or assist in her boyfriend's decapitation.
When the preparation process was complete, Genteman's head went into a stainless steel container of liquid nitrogen. The container went into one of Alcor's large freezing cylinders, called dewars, which contain dozens of heads, several whole bodies and a small assortment of cats and dogs. The rest of Genteman's body was cremated.
Iacuzzo has made arrangements for her own head to be frozen, as well, and a few years ago she told the Denver Post in a feature story about cryogenics that she hopes she and Genteman can be together again someday.
Attorney Sheila Carmody, who represented the Donor Network of Arizona, heard about Iacuzzo at a social event. Iacuzzo was quickly subpoenaed for deposition, and her employee file was requested from the hospital. Attorneys also asked Alcor for an inventory of all suspended body parts at their facility.
The hospital counsel blasted back, calling the maneuver a "desperate fishing expedition."
"The parties in this case accuse Ms. Iacuzzo of a heinous crime, at the minimum, or if plaintiffs' theory is accepted, murder. . . . Donor Network is apparently looking for evidence that Ms. Iacuzzo cryopreserved Mr. Marion's genitalia."
Which is, of course, exactly what they were looking for. The very idea of a brokenhearted lover building cryo-Frankenstein was even more irresistible than a witch collecting genitalia for a cauldron.
During Renee Coury's deposition with Iacuzzo, the attorney waited until nearly the very end to ask the toughest question:
Coury: "Donor Network has represented in their pleading that they had heard that Ms. Iacuzzo may have engaged in sexual conduct with Mr. Genteman's deceased body. Did you do such a thing?"
Iacuzzo: "Absolutely not."
The attorney for Donor Network defends going after Iacuzzo and Lindfors, even though there is no evidence tying them to the crime.
"Sure there would be criticism by their employers, but this was all in an effort to find out who actually committed the crime, and it was reasonable to look to hospital employees," Carmody says. "I had my personal suspicions, as did everyone at different times in the case, but then you would meet them and think, 'Oh they couldn't have done such a thing.'"
The interviews were part of a larger effort by all the attorneys, Carmody says, to not just win their respective cases but also solve the mystery.
"Is it common [for lawyers] to try to solve a crime? No," she says. "But this was an uncommon case from the beginning. We thought that because we're all fine lawyers, we could pick up the trail, and thought -- somewhat arrogantly -- that we could solve the crime."
During each deposition, the interview subject faced a barrage of attorneys representing four clients -- the Marion family, the Donor Network, Columbia Medical Center and Heritage Funeral Chapel. So much wincing humiliation for all, so many repetitive questions and lurid details.
It's difficult to imagine that a case of stolen genitals, which were likely taken from somebody who was already dead, could possibly be worth so much inconvenience and personal pain. Hard to imagine that a single act of desecration could matter so much, especially when normal death-care industry procedures are disturbing enough to provide content for horror fiction and feed precognitive nightmares.
And yet, Marion's family, the attorneys and even many employees of Columbia still wanted to know who mutilated Marion. Partly because this particular act of desecration may have occurred while Marion was still alive. Partly because the mutilator could strike again. And partly because of the powerful pull of an unsolved mystery.
Of the known suspects, DeWitt, Wiley, Gore, Lindfors and Iacuzzo remained in the running, but all looked less probable as time and intense scrutiny revealed no incriminating evidence.
In fact, right up until she reportedly dropped out of sight, everybody had forgotten about Mary Trese.
One-time attorney general candidate Tom McGovern approached the jury box for his opening statement. He stared for a moment at an empty spot on the wall above the jurors' heads, looking thoughtful. He seemed to carefully consider his words, even though he knew exactly what he was going to say.
"Mutilation, death, hospital bed?" he asked, and allowed it to soak in for a moment.
"Mutilation, death, hospital room?" he continued, taking a few steps, then pausing again.
"Mutilation, death . . . hospital," he said, solemnly, trying to make the connection clear: mutilation and death in a hospital means the hospital is inexorably at fault.
In May, McGovern and his co-counsel, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, laid out the Marion family's case against Columbia Medical Center in Maricopa County Superior Court. They explained how a hospital should be the safest place to take a loved one. How witnesses saw "volumes of blood, pools of blood" in Marion's bed. How "at the time of his death, Marion's mutilator was in his room." And how a "shadowy intruder with a blade -- "
"Objection!" jumped the hospital counsel, and McGovern smoothly rephrased.
The trial lasted 13 days, and there was an amusing undercurrent of surreal sexual politics as a pair of swaggering male attorneys debated a literal emasculation with hospital counsel Renee Coury and Kari Zangerle, both stern with short, Vulcan haircuts.
"The boys are over here, the girls are over there," joked McGovern.
On the eve of the trial, Judge Michael Yarnell dismissed the Donor Network of Arizona and Heritage Funeral Chapel from the lawsuit as the hospital had finally conceded, after three years of denial, that the mutilation occurred on their premises and before Marion's family had arrived.
Now Woods and McGovern had to convince the jury that Columbia Medical Center had a chronically negligent lack of security, and that its negligence resulted in Marion's death.
The former wasn't very difficult. The plaintiffs showed that the hospital ignored the advice of its own security assessment (recommending electronic door monitors, more guard patrols, security cameras, etc.). And a "smoker's door" next to Marion's room was typically propped open so employees could take a smoke break without being locked out -- allowing anybody from 20th Street and Thomas to wander in.
Most important, they showed that prior to Marion's mutilation, the hospital had a documented history of transients trespassing inside the building. There was a so-called "Phantom of the Opera," a homeless person who was periodically spied on the fourth floor, but avoided capture for a week until he pushed a hospital bed call button because a TV was broken. Once, there was even a homeless person discovered in Room 124.
But arguing that Marion's death was related to his mutilation, or even pinpointing the exact time of the crime, was much more difficult. Counsel for Columbia argued that a dozen hospital employees could not have missed a mutilation. They effectively detailed all the typically invasive handling of a body during a resuscitation effort. They showed that Marion received about 2,000 chest compressions during the code, which surely would have caused noticeable blood to excrete from his wound.
When the jurors returned from deliberations, they awarded the family $2 million, but ruled the hospital was not responsible for Marion's death.
Both sides claimed victory.
"I think the jury did the best they could with the information they had, and it sent a message to Columbia that they just couldn't sweep this under the carpet and pretend it didn't happen," Ann Marion said.
The hospital has neither paid the Marion family nor announced whether it will appeal the decision. The Columbia Medical Center Phoenix facility, now sitting lifeless and closed, was recently sold to Phoenix Children's Hospital.
After the trial, the pondering of who mutilated Marion began anew.
Woods said Mary Trese could not be found for months before the trial, causing raised eyebrows among the plaintiffs' counsel. "She was gone for the longest time," Woods said. "Nobody anticipated she would show up for the trial."
Trese's attorney, Melody Emmert, dismissed Woods' assertion. "I don't know how hard they searched," she said. "I think they're trying to indicate that there was some running away, and that was certainly not my impression."
When plaintiffs' attorneys learned that Trese would testify after all, they were eager to question her about a few crucial inconsistencies in her previous statements.
In her initial police interview, Trese had said she saw RN Sheila Wiley washing Marion's genitalia after the code and said Wiley had admitted removing his Foley catheter. She also told hospital attorneys Marion's wife had said she expected her husband to pass away because of his heart condition. (Later, Trese would retract that assertion, saying the wife simply did not seem surprised.)
Both of these claims diverted attention from the possibility of a pre-code mutilation, and likely contributed to Moreno's suspicion of Wiley and DeWitt.
But on the stand, while the statements of Columbia's staff remained static, Trese's story began to shift.
Flown to Phoenix as a witness for hospital attorneys to swear she saw Marion intact, Trese was visibly anxious. She swore she saw Marion's genitals intact during DeWitt and Wiley's cleanup. ("I believe I saw the genital area, and everything was intact.")
Then, during cross-examination, McGovern whittled away at Trese's assertions, suggesting that she was describing what routinely happens during a cleanup rather than what she actually saw on Halloween 1996:
McGovern: "You never saw anybody, Mary, removing the Foley catheter, correct?"
McGovern: "You never saw anybody wash the perineal/penis/anus/groin area?"
. . .
McGovern: "You realize that maybe you were talking about what normally occurs and it really wasn't something you saw?"
. . .
McGovern: "And I infer from that that [you are saying] 'I must have seen his testicles and penis, but I didn't really.'"
McGovern: "Thank you, Mary."
After the trial, Woods described Trese's testimony as "dramatic."
"She was extremely nervous," Woods said. "You just don't see many witnesses who are that frazzled as they take the stand. She had several different versions of her story, and the jury did say afterward they found her not credible."
McGovern hypothesized later that perhaps Trese had simply forgotten to check on Marion since her last documented round at midnight and wanted to divert attention from her time frame of responsibility so no one would think she could have prevented his death. (The hospital would later add another entry into Marion's record for Trese timed at 4:13 a.m. -- showing she checked on him a half-hour before he was discovered nonresponsive.) Her fear or guilt over missing a round could explain why she was crying when the family arrived, and why she kept changing her story.
It's a theory, one of many. But it is certain that Trese's version of events changed, and her conflicts with Wiley and DeWitt show a discrepancy among the staff as to what exactly happened that night.
"Before the trial, it seemed like there were missing pieces to the puzzle; now it seems like there are too many pieces," said Ann Marion.
Not only too many pieces, but too many pieces that do not fit together.
"These employees had memories that got better in the year 2000 than they were in 1996," McGovern said. "And [the memories] only got better as to their own innocent involvement, and the likely involvement of somebody other than themselves -- 'It may be that witch, maybe it's the wife, maybe it's the organ donor guy, maybe it's the funeral home guy.' All we'll ever know about this is that one or more of those employees knows something and will go to their grave without telling the truth."
So was the mutilator a member of the hospital staff, as McGovern insisted? A vagrant who just happened into the room? Was it just a coincidence the mutilation occurred on Halloween? Will the mutilator, as McCrary said, do this again? And was Dominic Marion murdered?
Ann Marion has her own suspicion.
Not to whodunit. She is exhausted by suspects and theories and gory minutia. Discussion of her husband, and especially how he died, is obviously painful. Several members of the Marion family now have a fear of hospitals.
But Ann Marion does have one unshakeable impression from that night -- something that struck her as peculiar when she walked into Room 124 on Halloween morning four years ago, a feeling she has never forgotten.
"Before hearing anything that came afterwards [about the mutilation], I had this inside feeling that it couldn't have just been a heart attack," she said.
"You know the poem that goes, 'Do not go gentle into that good night'? Well, that was my first thought when I got to the hospital and went into the room where it looked like he was just sleeping in the bed.
"I thought: 'You did not go gently into the night.'"
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