Originally created 09/13/03

Woman's remains kept in freezer for years by husband



PHOENIX -- A 75-year-old man stored his wife's body for nearly six years in his backyard, twisted and upside down in an old freezer, because he hoped she could someday be brought back to life, authorities said.

When police went to Edwin Rowlette's home after receiving a tip from his daughter, they found dozens of cats along with feces and urine inside the house. The backyard, where one of the daughter's friends discovered the body, was cluttered with garbage, debris, insulation and furniture.

Authorities found Marcia Lynn Rowlette's body packed in dry ice and insulation and stored along with the bodies of ten dead cats. Rowlette told police he used the cats for research.

Rowlette was arrested last week on a felony charge of crimes against the dead. Investigators are trying to determine if he legally acquired his wife's body from a funeral home and whether he submitted the proper documents.

"One of the areas that we're looking at is if he had committed a fraud in obtaining the body," said Prescott police Sgt. Michael Kabbel.

Prescott, a pine-studded town of about 33,000, is located 90 miles north of Phoenix.

Rowlette told police he was keeping his wife's body frozen in hopes that someday science could bring her back to life.

Marcia Rowlette was wheelchair-bound and lived in a nursing home before she died Dec. 15, 1997, of respiratory failure. The 38-year-old woman had a history of rheumatoid arthritis and musculoskeletal problems.

"She had a lot of congenital anomalies that made it difficult to do anything," said Karen Gere, medical investigator with the Yavapai County medical examiner's office.

After her death, Marcia Rowlette's body was transferred to a funeral home. The body was released to the McCandless Research and Development Foundation after Rowlette submitted documents showing his wife's body was being donated for scientific research.

Rowlette said he created the foundation in 1985 and bills it as an organization that supports scientific research and humanitarian causes. Police are investigating whether the foundation is legitimate.

The president of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based cryonics facility said to be storing the body of baseball great Ted Williams said he was unfamiliar with Rowlette's organization.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation president Jerry B. Lemler also noted that cryonics is generally performed with liquid nitrogen, not dry ice, because liquid nitrogen is colder.

"I hate to be the one to burst the bubble on this man's dream," Lemler said. "He had a dream that we share here at Alcor. But I don't think his methodology was very thought out."