Originally created 03/06/02

Charges multiply in crematory case



LaFAYETTE, Ga. - Authorities filed 56 additional charges Tuesday against a crematory operator accused of discarding hundreds of corpses he was paid to cremate.

The new charges bring to 174 the number of theft by deception counts against Ray Brent Marsh, who remains in Walker County Jail. A magistrate denied Mr. Marsh bond Monday, noting that investigators are likely to file further charges.

So far, 339 rotting corpses have been discovered dumped in pits, left in sheds and stacked in vaults at the Tri-State Crematory.

Authorities continued Tuesday to drain a small lake on the property, where a skull and a torso were discovered last month. Officials estimate the lake is 8 feet deep at its deepest point.

Authorities said they will probably spend more than a week dredging the dry lake bed for human remains.

The charges accuse Mr. Marsh of taking payment to cremate the dead,then passing off cement powder and dirt as ashes.

Investigators have said Mr. Marsh told them the incinerator was broken.

On Monday, authorities disclosed for the first time that the incinerator is working properly. State emergency agency spokeswoman Lisa Ray said the machine's manufacturer successfully tested it last week.

In another disclosure, prosecutor Buzz Franklin said investigators had discovered photos of decomposed bodies on Mr. Marsh's office computer. Mr. Franklin did not say why Mr. Marsh was storing the photos and declined to elaborate.

Magistrate Judge Jerry Daydenied Mr. Marsh bail for a third time Monday. Prosecutors said they were worried Mr. Marsh might be killed if released.

Sheriff Steve Wilson testified that at a victims' meeting one woman said she wanted to hang Mr. Marsh, and the threat was met with applause.

Defense attorney Ken Poston criticized the prosecution for discussing the threats. "If that isn't inviting trouble and torches and ropes, then I don't know what is," Mr. Poston said.