In the final years of her life, Jim Stauffer's mother, Doris, suffered from Alzheimer's. After she died in 2013, Stauffer hoped that by donating his mother's body to Phoenix's Biological Resource Center for medical research, he could help others learn more about the debilitating, incurable disease that affects millions.
But three years later, reporters for Reuters who were investigating the trade of human cadavers and body parts called Stauffer. During their investigation, Reuters reporters learned the Biological Resource Center had secretly sold Stauffer's mother's body to the U.S. military for thousands of dollars, which in turn used her body for blast testing experiments.
"She was then supposedly strapped in a chair on some sort of apparatus, and a detonation took place underneath her. To basically kind of get an idea of what the human body goes through when a vehicle is hit by an IED," Stauffer told ABC 15.
Stauffer told Reuters he had checked a box on a form explicitly stating that he would not allow his mother's body to be used for nonmedical purposes.
Ten days after he donated his mother's body to the Biological Resource Center for medical research, the center sent him his mother's cremated remains. Records reviewed by Reuters showed that someone from the center had detached one of his mother's hands and used that for cremation. Then, they sold the rest of her body to the military.
Stauffer is one of 33 of plaintiffs suing the Biological Resource Center and its owner, Stephen Gore. Stauffer and others allege that the center deceived them about what their loved ones bodies' would be used for. The case is set for a five-week trial starting October 22.
According to the lawsuit, the bodies "were literally used as crash test dummies, which meant they were used in experiments involving exposures to destructive forces, e.g. impacts, crashes, ballistic injuries and blasts."
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In 2014, the FBI raided the Biological Resource Center's Phoenix facility and made a gruesome discovery: The center was filled with buckets of body parts, a cooler filled with male genitalia, and a woman's head sewn onto a man's body.
The center closed after the raid. Gore pleaded guilty to operating an illegal enterprise in 2015 and was sentenced to one year of deferred prison time and four years of probation.
Michael Burg, the Colorado lawyer representing the 33 plaintiffs, told Phoenix New Times the revelations in the case were emotionally devastating to family members of the deceased people, who often blamed themselves for falling for BRC's scam.
"The FBI told people ... your person's body parts have been sold across the country," Burg said. "They can't stop thinking how their loved ones head is now in Florida. They were cut up like a piece of meat. It's despicable."