Judge tosses evidence in crematory trial


BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) – A judge tossed out evidence prosecutors hoped would prove a former Massachusetts medical examiner illegally signed cremation certificates for Bayview Crematory, saying the paperwork is not credible.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Tina Nadeau on Wednesday dismissed much of the evidence against Dr. Putnam Breed, of Hampton Falls, who is on trial, charged with taking money for signing the certificates without actually viewing the bodies.

Prosecutors wanted to show jurors copies of cremation certificates with Breed’s signature that were dated days after bodies were cremated. But Nadeau sided with defense lawyer Philip Utter, who argued the evidence was unreliable because another suspect in the case had been charged with forging documents and creating fake documents with photocopies of Breed’s signature.

That suspect, former crematorium worker Jim Fuller, had been expected to testify in Breed’s trial, but died in September.

Utter singled out an unsigned note asking Fuller to mark a cremation as having occurred on Oct. 23, 24, or 25 for a Breed-signed certificate dated Nov. 1, 2004.

“We’ve had no evidence of reliability, of trustworthiness, of these business records, he said.

Breed is the first person to face trial in the scandal, but 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.

Police who searched the unlicensed crematory in Seabrook in February 2005 found unidentified remains, a body in a broken refrigeration unit and incomplete records.

The investigation mostly focused on Bayview and former owner Derek Wallace, of Salisbury, Mass., 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.

Prosecutors said Wallace then schemed with his mother and stepfather to funnel clients from the Massachusetts funeral homes he operated to improperly documented cremations in New Hampshire.

Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader, http://www.unionleader.com

AP-ES-01-11-07 1339EST