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FBI Links Kentucky Man with ‘Approximately 40 Human Skulls’ to Harvard Medical School Morgue Theft

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An FBI affidavit linked a Kentucky resident arrested July 11 on a firearms charge to an alleged conspiracy involving the theft and sale of human remains from a Harvard Medical School morgue.

During a search of James Nott’s apartment, FBI agents uncovered human remains that included “approximately 40 human skulls, spinal cords, femurs, and hip bones” and a Harvard Medical School bag, per an affidavit attached to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

According to the filing, Nott is associated with a “network of individuals” that participated in selling and transporting “fraudulently obtained human remains.” Federal prosecutors say the network included former Harvard Medical School morgue manager Cedric Lodge.

Lodge, who federal prosecutors allege stole and sold human remains from the Medical School’s Anatomical Gifts Program, was indicted June 14 by a Pennsylvania grand jury for conspiracy and aiding and abetting the interstate transfer of stolen goods.

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Nott was tied to the human remains conspiracy through Facebook conversations with Pennsylvania resident Jeremy Pauley. Pauley currently faces criminal charges, with prosecutors alleging that he purchased human remains stolen from the Harvard Medical School morgue.

According to the affidavit, the human skulls in Nott’s home were found “decorated around the furniture,” including one skull with a “head scarf around it” and another skull on the mattress where Nott slept.

In Facebook conversations with Pauley, according to the filing, Nott used the pseudonym “William Burke” to send Pauley “photos and videos of skulls for sale.” Nott also posted “human remains for sale” on his public Facebook page “as recently as June 2023,” per the affidavit.

A footnote in the document adds that William Burke was a serial killer from Edinburgh in the 19th century who, along with his partner William Hare, sold victims’ bodies to a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.

FBI agents also found an AK-47, a revolver, ammunition, inert grenades, and body armor in Nott’s possession.

In August 2011, Nott was sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of an unregistered destructive device and possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of marijuana. Following his plea agreement, Nott was prohibited from possessing firearms.

Aaron M. Dyke, Nott’s public defender, did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment.

Nott is one of at least eight individuals arrested in connection to the human remains conspiracy, which FBI agents began investigating following the June 2022 discovery of human remains at Pauley’s Enola, Pennsylvania, residence.

Following the news of Lodge’s indictment last month, Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82 and Dean for Medical Education Edward M. Hundert published a written statement on the school’s website that called Lodge’s conduct an “abhorrent betrayal” and said that federal investigators believe he acted “without the knowledge or cooperation of anyone else at HMS or Harvard.”

The school — which is facing multiple class action lawsuits from families of Lodge’s alleged victims — sent a letter signed by Daley to the families of Anatomical Gifts Program donors that alerted them of Lodge’s indictment and shared available resources, including a hotline “staffed by specially trained counselors” to answer family members’ questions.

Harvard also established an external panel to write a report reviewing the Anatomical Gift Program’s policies — which it has committed to sharing publicly and expects to be ready by the end of the summer.

In a letter to impacted families, Daley wrote that HMS is committed to “introspection, innovation, and growth, particularly in the face of challenge.”

“These values drive our commitment to do all we can to prevent something like this from happening again,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @neilhshah15.

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