Maryland residents who decide to store the bodies of dead loved ones in freezers and wooded areas, as some have done in recent years, would be breaking the law under a proposal from a state lawmaker.
The bill proposed by Delegate Theodore Sophocleus would require people to send human remains to designated places such as cemeteries, family burial plots or crematories. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines of up to $5,000 and possibly a year in prison.
The measure would plug a gap in Maryland’s statutes. Although state law tells officials such as police and medical professionals what to do with a corpse, it is silent on the obligations of ordinary citizens, according to Sen. James E. DeGrange and Maryland Legislative Services staff.
Officials with the Anne Arundel County prosecutor’s office know of at least two cases where local families have stored the remains of loved ones in unusual manners since 1999.
Last summer, relatives stored the body of 83-year-old Doris Cooke in a freezer at a Glen Burnie home. With no state law governing how individuals should dispose of a body, prosecutors were unable to file criminal charges. In a 1999 case, police discovered an Anne Arundel father buried his 4-year-old daughter in a wooded area. Authorities were never able to determine the cause of her death.
“He took the child out to the woods, covered her in leaves and left her there, and the only violation it created was littering,” Sophocleus says.