INDIANAPOLIS (USA TODAY) -- The details sound like the plot of a bad horrormovie: Desperate for cash, a young man breaks into a warehouse to steal the brains of dead mental patients, and the body parts are later sold on eBay.
This story line, however, is real.
Authoritiessay David Charles, a 21-year-old Indianapolis resident, is accused ofbreaking into the Indiana Medical History Museum multiple times lastyear and stealing jars of human brain tissue and other preservedmaterial. A tipster who paid hundreds of dollars on the online auctionsite helped bring the organ entrepreneurism to an end.
The museumis the site of the former Central State Hospital, which served patientswith psychiatric and mental disorders from 1848 to 1994. Indianapolispolice had investigated several break-ins at the museum's storagefacility before a California phone call led police to Charles.
ASan Diego man who had bought six jars of human brain tissue off eBay for$600, plus $70 shipping, called the museum after noticing labels on thecontainers and suspecting some kind of skulduggery, according to courtdocuments.
Detectives with the Indianapolis Metropolitan PoliceDepartment used that tip to trace the transactions, eventually speakingto the eBay seller who provided the brain tissue to the San Diego man.That seller had obtained the brain matter from Charles, police said.
Policeset up a sting Dec. 16. The eBay middleman set up a meeting at a DairyQueen parking lot with Charles, who the day before stole 60 jars ofhuman tissue from the museum, according to authorities and courtdocuments.
Once the parking lot deal went down, authorities said, abust was made. One person with Charles reached for a handgun and wastackled by officers, court documents said. His name and the names ofothers involved in the case were redacted in the documents.
Charlesfaces charges of theft, marijuana possession and paraphernaliapossession, according to court documents. Investigators also are lookinginto the possibility of additional charges, said A.J. Deer, a spokesmanfor the Marion County prosecutor's office.
Whether others are facing charges is unclear.
Themuseum's executive director expressed dismay that anyone would stealthe museum's artifacts. The organ tissues come from about 2,000 patientswhose remains were autopsied from about the 1890s through the 1940s.
"It'shorrid anytime a museum collection is robbed," Mary Ellen HennesseyNottage said. "A museum's mission is to hold these materials as culturaland scientific objects in the public interest. To have that disturbed -to have that broken - is extraordinarily disturbing to those of us inthe museum field."
Nottage, who is grateful that much of thestolen material has been returned, said she spoke to the San Diego manwho paid $670 on eBay for human brain tissue.
"He just said he liked to collect odd things," she said.
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