Oregon woman haunted by body parts scandal

Hillsboro resident Angelina Merrill holding a photograph of her deceased mother.

HILLSBORO, Ore. (KGW/NBCNC) – Flipping through photos of her mom, Angelina Merrill remembers the good times.

“She was kind and generous” Merrill recalled. “She used to send these beautiful cars to the kids… handwritten.”

While in life, her mother had happy moments, it is what happened after she died of breast and lung cancer that for Merrill, “… is so shocking.”

She and her mother had decided to work with biological resource center in Phoenix, Arizona to donate her mother’s body to research a cure for cancer.

“They basically just take a small piece of tissue and they preserve it and send it off to a lab,” Merill explained. That’s what she was told anyway. She says the company took her mother’s body, then weeks later, sent back her ashes. But then in January of 2014, the FBI raided the facility. Investigators found her\ mother’s body inside.

“I didn’t know what I had was my mother the box they sent me was it even her?” Merrill said. “What did they send me? It was horrifying. Her entire body was in separated pieces.”

It’s an outcome she would have never agreed to had she been told. It still haunts be every day.

She, along with multiple families across the U.S., are suing the company, saying it sold body parts for profit and misrepresented how those body parts were going to be used.

KGW spoke with Merrill’s attorney via facetime. He said, in general, body parts can be used for everything from medical research to military explosive testing or canine training. He said, “Let’s be honest, how many families would actually donate their loved ones body if they knew it was going to be used for canine training.”

He said the problem isn’t necessarily the use, but the fact that families have no idea that’s how their loved ones bodies are being handled. “It’s been incredibly painful for the entire family,” Merrill said.

The man who owned the company–Stephen Gore–agreed to a plea deal, admitting he provided human tissue to vendors and other uses families had not authorized. The facility has since closed so KGW was unable to reach them.

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