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Pittsburgh Man Charged with “Abuse of a Corpse”


A man who flushed his grandparents’ ashes down a toilet will stand trial for “abuse of a corpse” and criminal mischief. The man, who is 33 years old, is believed to have been acting out after his mother kicked him out of the house and demanded that he find his own place to live. The police say that the man had been staying with his mother for what she believed was a brief time but had overstayed his welcome. She asked him to leave sometime around September when it became apparent that he was content sitting around the house smoking pot and drinking alcohol.

The man flushed the ashes, which were kept in a box in his mother’s bedroom, before vacating her home. She found out later from a neighbor what he had done. When his mother confronted him about the alleged flushing, he denied having done it but indicated that he would ‘flush her ashes as well’. The criminal complaint indicates that the man texted her saying, “Yep, as soon as you die you’ll be in the shitter you bitch.”

Abuse of a Corpse in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania statute 18 PA Cons Stat § 5510 says that: A person who treats a corpse in a way that would outrage “ordinary family sensibilities” commits a first-degree misdemeanor. However, the statute does not define corpse. The question then becomes: Do the ashes of a deceased someone constitute “a corpse”. As silly as it may sound, ambiguities such as these are what appellate courts are for. If it is decided by a judge that ashes do not constitute a “corpse” then the defendant cannot be charged with that particular crime.

Criminal Mischief Charges in Pennsylvania 

Criminal mischief is defined by statute in § 3304 of the Pennsylvania criminal code as: “The intentional destruction of property” among several other definitions. If the allegations are true, then the man could be charged under this statute regardless of the definition of corpse. However, Pennsylvania has a grading system based on the value of the property.

In the case that the damage is $5000 or more, the defendant could be charged with a third-degree felony. If the damage is valued between $1000 and $5000, that is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is valued between $500 and $1000, that’s a third-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is between $150 and $500 it’s merely considered a violation. And if it’s less than $150, then it’s a summary offense which is the least serious charge a person can have.

Since damages are calculated in monetary value, it’s unlikely the defendant would face a charge much more serious than a traffic violation. So, he’d better hope that the State of Pennsylvania doesn’t rule that ashes constitute a corpse.

Talk to a Scranton, PA Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need an attorney who understands the law and won’t let you get railroaded by a sloppy prosecution, a weak case, or unreliable witnesses. Talk to Scranton criminal lawyer Ernest D. Preate Jr. Esquire today and we can begin discussing your options.


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Ernest D. Preate, Jr. Esquire

204 Wyoming Avenue
2nd Floor, Suite C
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503
Phone: 570-209-9865
Fax: 570-558-5973

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