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Crematory Operator Gets Plea Agreement

Ray Brent Marsh to Get 12-Year Sentence

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Ray Brent Marsh

Ray Brent Marsh

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Updated May 19, 2010
A crematory operator who dumped 336 bodies on his rural North Georgia property instead of cremating them and sent cement dust to the families of the deceased instead of their ashes will serve 12 years in prison, as a result of a plea deal.

Ray Brent March, who will get credit for seven months served as he has awaited trial, was charged with 787 criminal charges of theft and abuse of a corpse and could have been sentenced to more than 8,000 years in prison had he been convicted by a jury.

Letters to the families of the deceased from the Walker County District Attorney's office informed the families of the pending guilty plea by Marsh, according to A reports. The letter did not specify the details of the deal, but un-named sources confirmed the 12-year sentence, which will be followed by a lengthy probation.

Authorities said when Marsh took over the Tri-State Crematory in Noble, GA in 1997 from his father, he simply stopped doing the cremations to save money and instead sent cement dust back to more than 50 funeral homes in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, that sent him the bodies to be cremated.

The case made national headlines in 2002, when investigators, acting on a tip, began finding hundreds of decomposing bodies on the 16 acres behind the crematory and in sheds on the property.

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson had received an earlier tip from a propane truck delivery driver who reported seeing bodies stacked up at the crematory. Walker said at the time he imagined a small number of bodies waiting to be cremated and did not investigate further.

The discovery of the bodies launched several lawsuits, against March, family members who were officers in the crematory, and many funeral homes. More than 1,600 people filed claims in the courts. Lawsuits settlements in the case have reached a reported $80 million.

Criminal attorneys for Marsh asked that the theft charges against him be dismissed because the corpses did not constitute property. When the judge refused to drop the charges, they appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. That appeal will be dropped as part of the plea agreement, sources told the AP.

Sentencing for Marsh is scheduled January 31.

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