Saturday, April 4, 2009

Damn. It's Too Late to Get a Bigger Box - Got Any Ideas?

Deceased and wife, Ann Hines
(Before death)

South Carolina man's corpse cut to fit coffin

Apr 03 2009 01:04PM CST

By JEFFREY COLLINS - Associated Press Writer

James Hines was a giant _ a 6-foot-7, 300-pound preacher and funk musician so big that after he died in 2004, a macabre rumor began circulating in this small town that the undertaker had to cut off his legs to fit him in the coffin.

This week, after years of whispers, Hines' body was exhumed, and the gruesome story appeared to be all too true.

The coroner's office said only that it had found "undesirable evidence," and a criminal investigation has been opened. But Hines' widow said investigators told her that his legs had been cut off between the ankle and calf, and his feet had been placed inside the casket.

"It's just like pulling the scab off an old sore. I was kind of like smoothing things out. But now it's like starting all over again," Ann Hines said Thursday, with her attorney, Abner Beasley, at her side, two days after investigators pulled the casket from the ground, lifted the lid, photographed the contents and returned it to the earth, all without leaving the graveyard.

Under South Carolina law, destroying or desecrating human remains is punishable by one to 10 years in prison.

"It's also punishable by a big dollar award to the grieving widow," said Beasley.

Reached this week, a man who identified himself as the owner of Cave Funeral Home, which handled the funeral, declined to comment.

The allegations were so startling that funeral directors around the country are talking about the case.

"You hear old wives' tales about this around the turn of the century, but, no, this was a shock to me," said Doggett Whitaker, a past president of the National Funeral Directors Association.

Ann Hines said that she and her family went to the funeral home after her husband's death to make the final arrangements, and she picked out a standard-size casket. At the funeral, only the top half of the lid was open, showing Hines from the chest up, she said. She said nobody ever suggested a bigger box.

Funeral directors sometimes pull up the knees or shift the padding in the coffin to make sure the body fits. But the best solution is usually a longer casket, Whitaker said, adding: "Just being upfront and honest with the family is the best path to take."

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