MT. WASHINGTON, Ky. – A man told officials the only other people inside his Kentucky apartment were his “dead friends” moments before they found dozens of human skulls decorating the furniture, including the bed where he slept.

The discovery was part of an investigation into the illegal online sale of human remains. In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, July 11, James Nott, of Mt. Washington, Kentucky, is one of several people named in the scheme.

WARNING: Some of the details in this story are graphic/disturbing in nature.

Investigating sale of human remains

The investigation began in June 2022, when the East Pennsboro Township Police Department received a tip about possible human remains in the home of Jeremy Pauley, of Enola, Pennsylvania.

Officers spoke to Pauley’s wife, who gave them screenshots of Facebook conversations between her husband and Candace Chapman, an employee at a mortuary in Little Rock, Arkansas, according to the complaint.

When police searched Pauley’s home, they said they found human remains, including organs and skin.

Investigators learned that Chapman was stealing remains that were scheduled to be cremated. She would then sell them to Pauley over Facebook Messenger and accept payment via PayPal, according to authorities.

Officials said Chapman sold Pauley hearts, brains, lungs, and two fetal specimens.

Following the search at his home, Pauley spoke with investigators. He revealed a network of people involved in the sale and transportation of human remains.

Among that group of people was Cedric Lodge, the morgue manager for the Harvard Medical School Anatomical Gift Program, the criminal complaint says. Lodge would steal body parts from cadavers donated to the medical school and sell them online, officials said.

Lodge connected with buyers over Facebook Messenger to arrange payments and shipment, the complaint said.

Human skull sales

One of the Facebook accounts that caught the attention of FBI agents used the name “William Burke,” who was a serial killer in Edinburgh from 1827-1828. Burke and his partner sold their victims’ bodies to a doctor at the University of Edinburgh.

Pauley had communicated with the “William Burke” account over Facebook and exchanged PayPal information. One of the PayPal emails was traced back to Nott’s home on Love Avenue in Mt. Washington, according to the criminal complaint.

On May 27, 2022, Nott sent Pauley photos and videos of skulls for sale on Facebook, saying, “These will be here soon..not claimed yet,” court records show.

“Yeah some of these prices are f—— garbage out there,” Pauley replied, according to the complaint. “I don’t mind paying up a little for shop stock. Makes things look good. How much total for the couple and the last video you sent plus the spines?”

Nott sent several voice messages, but agents could not recover the contents, they said.

Pauley is accused of writing back, “Oh I feel ya! Just let me know a grand total and I’ll get you paid. No rush!”

Nott sent more voice messages, and Pauley said, “Works for me,” officials said.

Police have viewed Nott’s public Facebook page, and there are posts advertising human remains for sale as recently as June 2023, they said. These pictures were posted on his page, with the “William Burke” username:

Facebook posts advertising a human skull for sale. (United States District Court)

Pauley and four others were charged on June 13, 2023, with interstate transport of stolen goods and conspiracy to transport stolen goods.

Weapons found in home

Authorities went to Nott’s home Tuesday morning for a search. When they asked him if anyone else was home, he said, “Only my dead friends,” according to the complaint.

Police said they found an AK-47 with a loaded magazine within three feet of the front door. It was leaning on the mattress where Nott sleeps, they said. A bag of ammunition and six empty magazines were on the other side of the room.

FBI agents said they found a loaded .38 special revolver Charter Arms on a table.

Three AK-47 op rod and bolts, one additional bolt, seven empty magazines, and one drum magazine were found inside Nott’s truck, officials said. Ten fully loaded AK-47 magazines were found behind the driver’s seat on the floorboard, according to authorities.

Inert grenades and two plates for body armor were also found inside the home, police said.

In August 2011, Nott pleaded guilty in Kentucky to possession of an unregistered destructive device and possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of marijuana.

Human skulls decorating furniture

While they were searching the home, FBI agents said they came across 40 human skulls, spinal cords, femurs, and hip bones.

“The skulls were decorated around the furniture,” the criminal complaint says. “One skull had a head scarf around it. One skull was located on the mattress where Nott slept.”

Officials also found a Harvard Medical School bag, they said.

Charge

The criminal complaint concludes there’s probable cause that Nott illegally possessed a firearm. In this complaint, he was not formally charged in connection with the sale of human remains.

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