Gulley in shock over crematory actions

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 25, 2002

Even though he is in the business, George Gulley’s reaction tothe recent discovery of hundreds of decomposing corpses outside arural Georgia crematory was much the same as that of the everydaycitizen.

“I was absolutely horrified,” said Gulley, president ofRiverwood Memorial Park and Cremation Services. “I couldn’t imagineanything like that could happen, much less deliberately.”

In Georgia, the latest count of bodies found around theTri-State Crematory in Noble stands at almost 300. Operator RayBrent Marsh, facing 16 counts of theft by deception for allegedlytaking payment for cremations he never performed, is awaiting ajudge’s decision on whether he will be granted bail.

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Also like the general public, Gulley is scratching his head intrying to discern Marsh’s motive. He described the alleged activityas unreasonable.

“You’ve got to go really out of your way to mess up acremation,” Gulley said.

The discovery in Georgia has prompted a review of states’ lawsgoverning cremations. Mississippi is among eight states that haveno laws.

Gulley doubted if laws and regulations would have helped in theGeorgia case.

“You’ve got some people who just want to be wrong,” Gulley said.”It looks like it was lot more expensive than if he’d done thingsright.”

The exact number of crematoriums in Mississippi is not known.Gulley counted seven and said lawmakers have other issues toaddress than regulating crematoriums.

“We can meet in a phone booth,” Gulley said about the smallnumber of operators.

Gulley has been operating Riverwood for 14 years.

“We deal not with the general public, but with the funeralhomes,” Gulley said. “They contract with us to carry out thecremations.”

In Riverwood’s activities, funeral homes deliver the bodies tothe crematorium in a degradable container. Gulley said it is abouthalf and half whether the bodies are embalmed.

Temperatures during the cremation reach over 1,600 degrees.

Gulley said it takes about two and half hours for the body toburn, another two hours to cool down. Including post-cremationactivities, the total process takes about six and a half hours,Gulley said.

“We try to get the remains back to the funeral home as fast aswe can,” Gulley said.

If the crematorium dealt directly with the general public, itwould have to have a full-time funeral director on staff.

“The business doesn’t justify that,” Gulley said.

Gulley was highly complimentary of the funeral home directors hedeals with for cremations.

“We are fortunate to some the highest-class operators in thisarea,” Gulley said. “They are conscientious and do a good job ofit.”

Following the Georgia scandal, some have suggested moreinvolvement in the cremation process by members of the deceasedfamilies. Gulley indicated he did not see a need for that, but hewas not opposed to it either.

“It’s not going to bother me one way or the other,” Gulley said.”We’re doing everything we can do to make it right.”