20 years ago, nearly 350 decomposing bodies were found at a GA crematorium

NOBLE, Ga. — This week marks 20 years since the start of one of Georgia’s most gruesome and bizarre sagas: the Tri-State Crematory scandal.

The case shocked the world and played out like a horror movie.

In February of 2002, nearly 350 decomposing bodies were found on the property of a crematorium in Noble, Georgia that had never actually been cremated.

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Noble is a tiny community in northwest Georgia. Since the mid-1970s, the Tri State Crematorium had provided cremation services for a number of funeral homes in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. It was originally founded by Tommy Marsh, a respected businessman who eventually turned the operation of his business over to his son, Ray Brent Marsh, in the mid-90s.

Ray Brent Marsh would later be convicted of numerous charges including abusing a corpse, burial service-related fraud and theft by deception. He served 13 years in prison and was released in 2016.

But on the day that investigators first walked onto the property, they likely had no idea the horror show they were about to witness.

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Investigators working off an anonymous tip found piles of decomposing human bodies in a storage shed, in vaults and scattered inside and outside of the property.

In total, 334 bodies were recovered, out of which only 226 which have been identified.

Investigators determined that instead of the remains of their loved ones, Marsh had given families concrete dust instead of cremated remains.

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What makes the case even more bizarre is that it likely would have been easier for Marsh to simply cremate the bodies than to hide them on his property.

Marsh has never given much of an explanation for his actions.

His attorneys revealed that physiological testing had indicated that Marsh was a victim of mercury toxicity from the cremation of bodies with mercury dental amalgam. Defense attorneys said that a faulty ventilation system exposed both Marsh and his father to toxic levels of mercury.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston spoke to his attorney, McCracken Poston, who said he still talks to Marsh often.

“There was nothing untoward done to these bodies other than not incinerating them,” Poston said.

Poston said that in the 20 years since the case unfolded, the community in Walker county has worked to move on.

“All is well, and I hope the community has healed,” Poston said.

In 2016, Marsh wrote an apology letter to his victims and the community, reading, in part:

“Moving forward, I can assure everyone that my life and deeds will not only prove the sincerity of my words but my desire to lead a life that is worthy of this community.”

He is now on probation for the rest of his life. The conditions of that probation include getting a job.

For some of the families victimized by Marsh, that sentence was not nearly enough.

Veronica Lively’s grandmother, Helen McKin, was one of the bodies that was recovered from the facility.

“My family served, my family. He got a 12-year sentence. My family got a lifetime sentence of hard. Nobody will ever know the extent of the horror that was up there,” she said. “It’s really scary to be in the same community with a person who could do that. What else is he capable of?”