Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Lynn University Mummification Program Update
Just when you thought the story of Lynn University embalming bodies without permission - couldn't get any more strange - it does. Now - add Egyptian-style mummies and a cooler of human heads to the mix. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is - on the case.
(WSVN) -- John Chew: "Mummification's actually a natural process..."
It was 1989 when John Chew, then head of the funeral services department for Lynn University, did a T-V show.
Here, Chew and a student carry, what he calls, a "dummy mummy" around campus.
Back then, there was a lot of media interest in Chew's plan to mummify folks for a fee - and teach students how to do it.
John Chew: "The body then would be taken and placed in the vat."
But, today, in connection with a pending lawsuit - what happened under john chew more than a decade ago - is being questioned.
David Charlip: "Here, it's our contention that this program has basically been running amuck for years."
Attorney David Charlip is suing Lynn University over the use of bodies for embalming classes without the knowledge or permission of family members.
David Charlip: "Well, the latest twist is that we had a witness contact us that was a former student at Lynn University..."
That former student - John Caron - sent this report to Charlip and a copy to me.
It charges the mummification program was a sham.
Caron writes ..."The extent of this program heralded as the only one of its kind in the world, was wrapping models in linens for the cameras."
He later repeated the accusations in a sworn deposition.
John Chew: In my opinion, no one was mislead.
Today, John Chew defends the program.
He says the mummy class never materialized as promised because he was never able to get authorization from the state to mummify a body... and that all the students understood... except Caron.
John Chew: "He was constantly threatening me in different ways, and he just didn't like the way I taught."
Caron also sent me pictures, too graphic to show, of decomposing human heads he charged Chew left out in the school's classroom.
Chew says they were in covered containers and that Caron opened those containers.
John Chew: "This was my project dealing with mold - grave mold."
But Chew does admit another accusation - that a body was left in the classroom.
John Chew: "It was an embalmed body. It was used for demonstration."
Then there are other pictures we can't show you, given to me by someone else connected to the program.
It's a freezer with maybe a dozen human heads inside.
Carmel Cafiero: "And I'm wondering where did the heads come from, and where did they go?"
John Chew: "These heads were provided by the university through some doctors."
Chew says he got the heads in connection with teaching seminars held at the university.
And that they were later cremated.
An attorney for Lynn University says Chew was told to remove the heads when officials learned of their existence.
John Chew: "I felt I was fortunate to have a human head where the students could sit there and wax lips and make them look natural."
Carmel Cafiero: "John Chew says all this is just part of running a funeral services program. The University's position is that none of this has anything to do with the embalming lawsuits. So far five cases have been settled for 35 to 50 thousand dollars each. Several more are pending."
If there's something you think Carmel should investigate... give her a call...