Utah Man Arrested After Carrying Out Elderly Mother’s Wishes For Green Burial

A Utah man is facing criminal charges for attempting to carry out on his own his elderly mother’s final wishes for a green burial.

Awaiting a natural burial

Photo by: Eli Duke

66 year old Pete Foy Marker of Panguitch Utah was taken into custody when a family member alerted police that Marker’s elderly mother had died from age-related causes a couple weeks prior and that Marker hadn’t followed legal protocol after the death. Marker stated his mother had wanted a more earth-friendly burial known as a “green burial” so he planned on entombing her body in the hills near town. Marker was unable to follow through with his mother’s request due to hunters in the area so he planned on waiting until the season was over. Until then, he wrapped her body and placed it in basement room of his home where coal was stored. Before he was able to return to the woods to bury his mother however, he was arrested.

Green or natural burial

It isn’t surprising that Marker’s mother wanted a green or natural burial as many individuals are opting for earth friendly options if possible. With the surge of people choosing to be more environmentally conscious for various items in life, why wouldn’t they choose to be pro-earth in death as well? The goal of green burials is to return the body to the earth with the lowest impact on the environment as possible (while saving some money in the process). A green burial consists of preparing the body without the use of toxic embalming substances. After which the body is encompassed in a coffin of natural, biodegradable materials and planted in a natural setting. Oftentimes one of these natural coffins will be buried or “planted” with a seed or sapling of a favorite tree or one native to the area, truly giving back to the earth while preserving the natural beauty of the area. While green burials are growing in popularity throughout nation and state, residents are warned there are rules that must be followed to avoid criminal charges.

Reporting a dead body

Photo by: Fe llya

It is not known at this time if Pete Foy Marker of Panguitch was at all responsible for his mother’s death, but regardless he is facing multiple charges related to his actions following the discovery of her body. One law he failed to obey was letting authorities know his mother had died. Utah Code 26-4-7 & 8 states it to be a class B misdemeanor to not report “a deceased body if it appears that death was:

• By violence, gunshot, suicide, or accident;
• Sudden death while in apparent good health;
• Unattended deaths (…);
• Under suspicious or unusual circumstances;
• Resulting from poisoning or overdose of drugs;
• Resulting from diseases that may constitute a threat to the public health;
• Resulting from disease, injury, toxic effect, or unusual exertion incurred within the scope of the decedent’s employment;
• Due to sudden infant death syndrome;
• Resulting while the decedent was in [police or state custody];
• Associated with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures ;(…)”

All signs so far point to the very elderly woman dying naturally in her sleep, but because she was alone in her bed when she passed and no one was around to witness it, is was a crime not to report it.

Desecration of a dead human body

Marker is also facing a third degree felony charges for his decision to conceal the body in his basement before he could have it buried. Utah Code 76-9-704 states “A person is guilty of abuse or desecration of a dead human body if the person intentionally and unlawfully:

• Fails to report the finding of a dead human body (…);
• Disturbs, moves, removes, conceals, or destroys a dead human body or any part of it; or
• Disinters a buried or otherwise interred dead human body, without authority of a court order;
• [or dismembers, damages, or commits sexual act on the dead human body].”

Desecration of a dead human body is a serious charge that is usually seen with individuals trying to conceal a wrongful death or for those who flagrantly show no respect for the dead. Unfortunately for Marker and others who move, conceal, or secretly bury a family member, they are likely to face felony charges for desecration of a dead human body even if they have no criminal intent.

Laws for the dead

Photo by: Matt Walker69

Those wishing to carry out green burials must follow the law regarding proper notification and handling of a dead human body. After reporting the death, family members must obtain a death certificate prior to burial (Utah Code 26-2-13). Then, they may either locate a cemetery that permits green burials or check with local zoning laws if the burial is to be carried out on private property. Failure to follow these laws for the dead can result in charges, putting another negative twist on an already somber event. For more information regarding this and other Utah State laws, contact a reputable attorney.

Parental Kidnapping in Utah

A father of four in Utah was arrested for parental kidnapping after being on the run with his four children for over two months.

Doomsday prepper

33 year old John Coltharp, a doomsday prepper belonging to a new religious group named Knights of the Crystal Blade was arrested for kidnapping along with his accomplice and leader of the group, 34 year old Samuel Shaffer. Some in the community questioned Coltharp’s kidnapping charges since the children kidnapped were his own and with him for over two months before authorities got involved.

The delay to search

The mother of the children, 28 year old Micha Soble of Springville, Utah started the public search for her children with posts to her personal social media account as well as public yard sale sites throughout Utah over two months after her children were abducted by their father. When questioned as to why she waited so long to find them, she blamed the Utah Court system.

Custody order takes time

In fear of losing her children, Soble asked the 4th District Judge Pullan to grant her a temporary restraining order. Judge Pullan denied the request in September after which Coltharp disappeared with all four children, ages ranging from 4 to 8 years old. Over the course of the divorce and custody hearings, Soble remained in the dark as to where her children were. Finally, near the end of November, Judge Pullan granted the mother full custody and the search for the Coltharp children began.

Parental kidnapping

The Coltharp children were all found after a lengthy search from law enforcement and volunteers, with two of the children hospitalized from exposure to the cold and weather. In this case, the children were in immediate danger and parental kidnapping charges seemed fitting. In many other cases however, Utah residents are confused as to how a parent can be charged with parental kidnapping and not just custodial interference.

Custodial interference

Utah Code 76-5-303 states “A person who is entitled to custody of a child is guilty of custodial interference [a class B misdemeanor] if, during a period of time when another person is entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from the person entitled to visitation of the child, with the intent to interfere with the visitation of the child.” Or “A person who is entitled to visitation of a child is guilty of custodial interference if, during a period of time when the person is not entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from a person who is entitled to custody of the child, with the intent to interfere with the custody of the child.” In the case of the Coltharp children, their father was not granted custody or visitation. His removal of the children and failure to return then then constituted kidnapping.

Child kidnapping by a parent

Utah Code 76-5-301.1 states that “an actor [or parent without any parental rights] commits child kidnapping if the actor intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and by any means and in any manner, seizes, confines, detains, or transports a child under the age of 14 without the consent of the victim’s parent or guardian, or the consent of a person acting in loco parentis.” Child kidnapping is considered a first degree felony in the state of Utah and punishable by 15 years to life in prison. It is important for divorced parents to fully understand their court ordered arrangements to ensure they are staying within the law regarding their divorce and custody ruling.

Minor Traffic Accident Escalates to Assault with a Vehicle

A minor traffic accident in southern Utah quickly escalated to assault with a vehicle after a driver decided he didn’t want to stay at the scene.

Fender Bender

Assault with a Vehicle

Photo by: Charles Wagner

20 year old Ethan Campbell Hansen of St. George, Utah was arrested for multiple misdemeanors as well as four felonies after being involved in a minor traffic accident during holiday festivities last week. The rear-ending accident itself was minor and would have likely ended in a traffic violation for Hansen of following too close. Unfortunately, the fender bender was just the beginning.

Traffic violation vs felony charges

Instead of waiting for police to come investigate the accident, Hansen attempted to flee. Two pedestrians were struck by Hansen’s vehicle, suffering minor injuries, while multiple others were able to get out of harm’s way. It was only then that Hansen decided to stay on scene. After authorities were able to obtain Hansen’s true identity and restrain him, he was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility. His charges include:

• Two Class C misdemeanors for criminal mischief and leaving the scene of a pedestrian accident;

• Two Class B misdemeanor for interfering with an arrest and failing to disclose identity;

• One third degree felony for assault by a prisoner; as well as

• Three other third degree felonies for aggravated assault with a vehicle (dangerous weapon).

Assault with a vehicle

Photo by: Dean Strelau

Utah Code 76-5-103 states that “aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct that is
i. An attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

ii. A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

iii. An act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and

That includes the use of:

i. A dangerous weapon [any item capable of causing death or serious bodily injury]”

Although no weapons were located on Hansen or in his vehicle, assault with a vehicle has the potential to cause serious injury or death and is categorized along with other weapons when used in an assault.

Go big and go to jail

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff’s Department

With four misdemeanor and four felony charges to face in court, Hansen has the potential to face over 20 years in prison and fines totaling nearly $35,000. No one is sure why Hansen chose to escalate the situation, seeing as he isn’t known to be a violent offender or have any criminal history at all; He may have been simply trying to run away from the problems he caused. Many younger adults are not educated on how to property react to intense situations and fleeing can often seem the best course of action at the time. It is imperative that they are taught the importance of staying on the scene of an accident and not expanding the situation by reacting poorly. Anyone facing charges for a minor or serious offense is encouraged to seek guidance from this point out from a qualified criminal defense attorney.