Jury in Detroit-area body parts case selected, trial could last 2 weeks

(WXYZ) - A Detroit jury of 11 women and five men have been told they will see gruesome photos and hear evidence abut the business of a cadaver deal that will be “difficult and unattractive." But they were urged not to turn away to decide 13 charges against Arthur Rathburn that include Fraud, Transportation of Hazardous Materials and lying to federal agents.
For years, Rathburn was the owner of International Biological, operating out of a shabby warehouse near Detroit City Airport.  He bought then sold and rented human cadavers to doctors, dentists and medical students that the feds claim were not properly stored and some that were diseased with HIV, Sepsis, and Hepatitis A, B, and C. 
Some cadavers were cut up with chain saws, band saws and many were stored on ice in bins “flesh to flesh” that had to be separated with a “crow bar”.   The business was raided in December of 2013 and the feds found body parts of more than a thousand different people, arms, legs, heads in storage. 
Rathburn turned down a plea deal before going to trial. 

The charges are:

  • 9 counts of wire fraud
  • 1 count of transportation of hazardous materials
  • 2 counts of false statements

Both sides, the prosecution and defense say two key witnesses will be Rathburn’s ex-wife Elizabeth who took a plea deal and will testify against Arthur.  Another key witness will be Steven Gore who was owner of Biological Resource Center in Arizona.  He also took a plea deal and had provided cadavers to Rathburn.  Rathburn also got cadavers from Biological Resource Center in Chicago.  It is not known who may testify from Chicago.

Several people were seated in court and may be family members of cadavers traced to Rathburn.  
Rathburn was busted when he shipped a human head to Detroit from Israel that was packed in a trash bag and leaking blood.  Rathburn told customs officials the fluid was not blood but Listerine.  8 total heads were shipped into the U.S.   From there investigators turned to Rathburn’s warehouse. 
The prosecution also showed the jury a document how Rathburn knowingly bought a diseased full body human cadaver from Chicago for $5,000 but he was given a $3,000 discount because it tested positive for diseases.  The jury was told there is little use for diseased cadavers in medical training and that Rathburn often lied to his medical customers about diseased body parts.
Defense Attorney Jim Howarth told the jury the government will not show that anyone contracted any diseases while using Rathburn’s cadavers.  He said this is not a criminal case but a contract case and that Rathburn did not violate any terms of his contracts in his business.  He also said while you “would not want to eat a meal there” his warehouse was not as clean as a doctor’s or dentist’s office, Rathburn did not violate any federal laws.  

The first witnesses will be called today.  This trial could go two weeks. 

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