ANALYSIS: Media Watch - Crematory's macabre acts found mystifyingand maddening

To date, more than 300 corpses, some dating back 15 years, have been disinterred from the grounds surrounding the now infamous Tri-State Crematory in rural Noble, GA. The discovery that the crematory owners had been disposing their customers' loved ones in makeshift graves rather than through the company's incinerator has been derided as both ghoulish and tragic. Coverage of the ongoing investigation has captured the global media's attention, with tiny Noble, GA getting "hit with an onslaught of media attention from as far away as Australia and Denmark" (The Miami Herald, February 24).

To date, more than 300 corpses, some dating back 15 years, have been disinterred from the grounds surrounding the now infamous Tri-State Crematory in rural Noble, GA. The discovery that the crematory owners had been disposing their customers' loved ones in makeshift graves rather than through the company's incinerator has been derided as both ghoulish and tragic. Coverage of the ongoing investigation has captured the global media's attention, with tiny Noble, GA getting "hit with an onslaught of media attention from as far away as Australia and Denmark" (The Miami Herald, February 24).

A number of reports suggested that not even author Stephen King could have imagined such a heinous crime. Time (March 4) described the scene outside the Tri-State Crematory as a "uniquely grisly spectacle,

while Newsweek (March 4) suggested that Ray Brent Marsh, 28, who managed the family business his father started, was now "accused of one of the creepiest crimes in Georgia history."

The Washington Post (February 24) reported, "Everything about this case staggers the imagination

and then proceeded to question "Why would anyone go to the trouble of digging pits and encasing some of the corpses in concrete vaults when it would surely have been easier to repair or replace the incinerator and burn them as promised?

Others noted that Tri-State was active in lobbying the state government about industry legislation, and had taken the time to write to a supplier to order a relatively inexpensive broken part, but never had taken the time to install it.

In the days after an anonymous phone call tipped off authorities to the goings-on at Tri-State Crematory, the blanket coverage of the investigation has included frequent calls for increased state and federal legislation over the funeral industry to prevent any such incident from ever happening again. Noting that the crematory had been exempted from certain state inspection laws since Tri-State only dealt with funeral directors rather than directly with the public, an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (February 22) argued, "This macabre scene exists because of Georgia's weak law for regulating crematories."

Reporting also frequently focused on how unexpected this turn of events was, considering how respected the Marsh family was in the Noble, GA community.

USA Today (February 22) quoted a town resident as saying that Ray Brent was "just the nicest guy you ever wanted to know."

Occasionally it was suggested that the 30 or so funeral directors who sent business to Tri-State were at fault for not questioning the crematory's business practices. In response, these funeral directors cited the Marsh family's glowing reputation and the well-established trust it had earned in the local community as having prevented them from making any inquiries into how Tri-State conducted its affairs.

A number of reports widened the scope of the discussion to look at the funeral industry in general. Despite the especially grisly nature of this case, a few articles reminded audiences that similar breaches of business and ethical conduct had occurred over the years.

The activities at Tri-State are especially disturbing. Perhaps media coverage can help spur legislators to craft laws and ensure the enforcement of those laws so this will not be allowed to happen again.

Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.

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