Funeral Director Takes Photos of Corpses to Gross Out Friends

Pennsylvanian funeral director, Angeliegha Stewart, has been charged with abusing corpses other crimes for 'allegedly' taking pictures on her cell phone of the dead bodies in her funeral home to "gross out" her friends and family.

She is also facing a marijuana charge. The detectives found messages about deals while they were searching her phone during their investigation into the photos.

Authorities say that Stewart took pictures during an organ harvesting process and others of a decomposing corpse. Other photos included corpses in caskets, and others not.

A spokesman for the funeral home says that they are disappointed in the allegations and are cooperating with authorities.

Comments from Allen:   People who work in the funeral home industry sometimes deal with the constant parade of dead bodies by making light of morbid situations. However, that gallows humor crosses the line when it involves molesting or desecrating a corpse, and may cross the line when unauthorized photographs are taken and/or disseminated by non-family members.

Idaho law prohibits the abuse of a corpse in I.C. Section 18-7027: "Any person who is convicted or found guilty of molesting in any way evidence of remains of a deceased human body outside the terms of the law is guilty of a misdemeanor."

If someone in Idaho were arrested or cited for the offense committed by Ms. Stewart, the question arises, is taking photos of a corpse equivalent to molesting it? There is an argument that the statute is too vague in this instance; therefore, the conduct should not be considered a violation of that statute. The defense could argue: "If the legislature intended taking photos of dead bodies a crime, it should have said so in the statute."

Nonetheless, shutterbugs should not rely on the "vagueness" argument should they be temped to follow Ms. Stewart's lead. Judges considering such questions often find offensive conduct that falls within a broad interpretation of criminal statutes a violation.

Aside from the criminal aspects of this conduct, there are potential civil consequences as well. The families of the deceased, as well as the persons shown the dead body photos, have potential lawsuits here. There is probably a breach of the contract for funeral home services when a funeral director appropriates images of a corpse for her own private purposes. The families may also suffer "intentional infliction of emotional distress" if the funeral director misuses images of their deceased loved ones. There are potential privacy violations and conversion (theft of image) issues as well.

The bottom line here is that there is no reason to wander into these grey areas to get a cheap laugh. It could cost you more than your job.


Allen Browning is an attorney in Idaho Falls, Idaho who handles personal injury and criminal defense. He has over 30 years of experience and handled thousands of cases. Allen handles cases from all over Idaho. Call (208) 542-2700 to set up a free consultation if you are facing legal trouble or you have been involved in an accident.

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