The body of Charles Edward Singleton, who died while incarcerated in an Alabama prison, was returned to his family with all of his organs — including his brain — found to be removed and missing, ABC 33/40 News reports.
It's the second reported case in recent months of the bodies of inmates of Alabama's prison system — which has long been criticized for its inhumane treatment of prisoners — being returned in horrendous condition with missing body parts.
The first reported case, involving the body of 43-year-old Brandon Clay Dotson, led to the deceased's family filing a federal lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections last month. The family's lawyer, Lauren Faraino, alleges that Singleton's case is "absolutely part of a pattern," she told The Associated Press.
"There are very few things that shock me anymore in this system," she said last month, as quoted in ABC30/40's previous coverage. "But there is something so grotesque and disrespectful and unacceptable about taking the organ from a person without the family knowing."
Singleton, 74, died in November 2021. Recently obtained court documents reveal that he was housed at a facility called the Hamilton Aged and Infirmed Center before being sent to a hospital for care while in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections, according to ABC 33/40. An autopsy on his body was then carried out at the University of Alabama.
In the court documents, his family claims that they requested the body be sent to a funeral home in a nearby city. Once it arrived, the funeral director told them that it "would be difficult to prepare his body for viewing" because it was in a "noticeable state of decomposition" with "advanced skin slippage," ABC 33/40 reported.
The family was then told that there were no organs in the body, and that the brain had also been removed. The funeral director added that the normal practice was to return the organs in a bag stored in the deceased's body. When they requested UAB to return the organs, the institution claimed it had never received them.
"We only conduct autopsies with consent or authorization and follow standard procedures equitably for anyone consented to or authorized for an autopsy," UAB said in a written statement to ABC 33/40.
"In an autopsy, organs and tissues are removed to best determine the cause of death," it added. "Autopsy consent includes consent for final disposition of the organs and tissues; unless specifically requested, organs are not returned to the body."
Meanwhile Dotson, who was serving a 99-year sentence for burglary, was found dead at the Ventress Correctional Facility in November 2023. Faraino said that when they finally received the body, it was so badly composed that the funeral director claimed they "had never received a body in such terrible condition."
Distraught, the family hired a pathologist to conduct a second autopsy and found that Dotson's heart was missing. Moreover, they claim that they never received a death certificate, Fox News reported, and they remain uncertain about how he died.
"Their appalling misconduct is nothing short of grave robbery and mutilation," the lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections states, per the AP.
More on morgue madness: Man Pleads Guilty to Selling Body Parts From Harvard Morgue
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