Jurors took less than three hours Thursday to clear a Belen funeral home owner of responsibility for providing a Bosque Farms family the wrong cremains for their father, whose body parts later turned up at a Kansas incinerator.
The District Court jury in Albuquerque found Robert Noblin, owner of the Riverside Funeral Home in Belen, innocent of negligence, unfair practices and breach of conduct, voting 12-0 on each charge.
The civil lawsuit stems from the discovery in March 2010 of seven human heads at a Stericycle medical waste incinerator in Kansas City that were sent for disposal by now-defunct Bio Care Southwest of Albuquerque.
Bio Care billed itself as a low-cost alternative to traditional funeral services by providing body parts for medical researchers. The firm “harvested” organs and tissues sought by researchers, then stored the remains in freezers.
Albuquerque police arrested Bio Care president, Paul Montano, on charges of felony fraud in March 2010, but later dropped the charges, explaining that they could not show that Montano had committed a crime.
Among the human heads, limbs, torsos and other body parts found in Kansas were the remains of Charles Hines Sr. of Bosque Farms, whose children, Charles Hines Jr. and Gayle Naile, filed a lawsuit against Bio Care, Montano and Noblin.
Hines and Naile last month voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit against Montano and Bio Care, court records show.
Montano and Bio Care filed for U.S. Bankruptcy Court protection in August 2011, state and court records show.
Hines’ attorney, Brent Ferrel of Albuquerque, told jurors Thursday that the bankruptcies played a role in the decision to drop Montano and Bio Care from the lawsuit.
Noblin’s attorney, David Rosales, told jurors that Noblin “was a victim as well” of Montano and Bio Care, whom Noblin had trusted to properly return the remains of Charles Hines Sr. to the Belen funeral home.
Noblin had the remains cremated and handed them over to Hines and Naile, who scattered a portion of the cremains from a balloon in October 2010, five months before the senior Hines’ head, limbs and torso turned up in Kansas.
“Then they learned that it wasn’t their father” they scattered from a balloon, their attorney, John Aragon, told jurors during closing arguments on Thursday. “They suffered things that were worse than the death of their father when they found out about this desecration.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal