An ex-funeral director near Pittsburgh is facing 19 charges of corpse abuse for failing to incinerate 19 dead babies in a case where authorities discovered a total of 300 tiny bodies – most of which were aborted at the Magee-Women’s Hospital.
Charges were filed only for those infants born alive.
Robert B. Winston Jr., 61, had a contract with the hospital to cremate the remains at a rate of $1 per pound. The man’s lawyer said he failed to cremate the bodies, which were found in his garage after he ran out of money to dispose of them.
The bodies were discovered in August in stacked boxes when investigators first set foot in McKeesport, Pa., garage of the former funeral director.
It wasn’t until the Allegheny County coroner’s office opened the boxes that they learned some of the remains were not unborn babies. At least 19 were born and had lived for a short time. Some wore tiny diapers and caps.
Following months of investigation that included matching medical records and remains with cases at the hospital, Allegheny County Police charged Winston with theft by deception and 19 counts of abuse of a corpse.
Police alleged that Winston, the onetime owner of Newman-Winston Memorial Chapel, violated a contract with the Oakland hospital to pick up fetal remains and treat them in a “respectful and dignified manner” by having them cremated.
Winston stacked boxes of remains in his garage from 1999 through early 2002. He was paid a total of $9,000 by the hospital for disposing of the bodies.
Nineteen of the containers held infant corpses, 179 had remains of unborn babies older than 16 weeks, 154 held unborn remains under 16 weeks gestation, and 253 had autopsy remains, according to an affidavit.
Winston was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at the Allegheny County Jail’s behavior clinic.
Winston once served on McKeesport’s Civil Service Commission, was a member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and volunteered for various boards and organizations.
In March 2004, the state Board of Funeral Directors fined Winston $3,000 and suspended his license for three years. He now lives in public housing. Winston’s ex-wife initiated divorce proceedings earlier this year. Their divorce was finalized in July, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
A preliminary hearing for Winston is scheduled for Nov. 7.