Former Mass. medical examiner convicted

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BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) – A former Massachusetts medical examiner accused of having an illegal side business going when he signed cremation certificates for Bayview Crematory was convicted Tuesday of nine felonies.

Putnam Breed of Hampton Falls was charged with taking money for signing the certificates without actually viewing the bodies. His trial began last week in Rockingham County Superior Court on charges of falsifying documents and theft.

A jury deliberated for two hours Tuesday before finding him guilty, WMUR-TV reported.

Breed, who had been a district medical examiner in Massachusetts, told police that Bayview owner Derek Wallace of Salisbury, Mass., hired him to inspect bodies and issue cremation certificates.

County Prosecutor Tom Reid said Breed received $35 per form, and may have signed blank forms in batches. The crematory handled as many as 2,000 bodies each year from funeral homes in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Breed’s lawyer, Phil Utter, said the doctor broke no state rules because there were none then regarding cremation certificates.

Breed is the first person to face trial in the scandal; two other people have pleaded guilty and several others face criminal charges.

The investigation began in 2004 after authorities arrested a New Hampshire deputy assistant medical examiner, Gene Nigro, on charges he signed cremation certificates without first seeing the bodies. Nigro pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison.

A former crematory employee, James Fuller, died of cancer shortly after pleading guilty to eight felony charges of falsifying cremation records.

The investigation mostly focused on Bayview and Wallace, whose Massachusetts funeral director’s license was suspended in August 2004. Prosecutors accused Wallace of transferring ownership of Bayview to his mother and stepfather to get around a Massachusetts law that prohibits funeral directors from owning crematoriums.

AP-ES-01-16-07 1757EST

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