June 3, 2009 9:22 AM
Man Saws Legs Off Giant Corpse To Fit In Casket
COLUMBIA, S.C. (CBS/AP) What should an undertaker do when confronted with a 6-foot-7 corpse too big to fit in a casket? For one man in South Carolina, the answer was to cut his legs off.
Now, South Carolina state authorities have revoked the licenses of the funeral home where he worked.
The state Board of Funeral Service voted unanimously Monday to close Cave Funeral Home in Allendale. The board also fined funeral director Michael Cave $500 and ordered him to pay $1,500 for the investigation.
In an agreement with the board, Cave said employees never told James Hines' family that his body might not fit in a standard casket. An unlicensed worker, Charles G. Cave, cut the legs with an electric saw without consulting relatives. Hines' widow has said his legs had been cut off between the ankle and calf and put back in the coffin, but the document didn't detail exactly what happened.
Michael Cave did not immediately return messages left at his home and business Tuesday. A phone number listed for a Charles Cave in Allendale was disconnected.
The funeral board is drawing up its final order, and several members refused to comment until the documents were signed by Cave and filed with the state. Whether Cave can ever reapply for his license will be determined in the final order, said state licensing spokesman Jim Knight.
Evidence also has been turned over to criminal investigators, but prosecutor Duffie Stone didn't return a message Tuesday. Under South Carolina law, destroying or desecrating human remains is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Hines, 60, died in October 2004 of skin cancer, and his family picked out a standard-sized casket at the funeral home. His wife, Ann Hines, said her husband's body was only shown from the chest up at his funeral. And no one suggested a longer casket.
Ann Hines said rumors about what happened to her husband's body started spreading soon after he was buried. Hines, an albino black man with several modest hits in the 1970s as a soul and funk guitarist with J. Hines and the Boys, was well-known in the town of 3,700 people about 75 miles southwest of Columbia. He became a preacher later in his life, playing his guitar during services at the church he built and on a nearby Christian radio station until his death.
The widow threatened to sue Cave Funeral Home and the business agreed to settle out of court as long as she did not tell anyone how much she received. Ann Hines said workers never told her what happened or apologized.
Authorities eventually caught wind of the rumor, leading a funeral service board investigator and county coroner to exhume Hines' body.
Ann Hines didn't return a phone message from The Associated Press on Tuesday, but she said last month the attention brought by the case made it seem like her husband had died all over again.
"It's been overwhelming," she said. "I've gotten lots of calls of support, but I've also heard from people who said I should have just let this go."