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.

Theft of Pets in Utah

Theft of pets are on the rise in Utah and many residents are inquiring what the laws are regarding stealing someone else’s companion animal.

Pets are property

Photo by: Sue Salisbury

Most people that own pets will say their fur-babies are family. According to Utah law however, pets are not children; they are considered property instead. Stealing a pet is not kidnapping or dognapping- it is theft. Theft of property such as a dog, cat, bike, or DVD player is punishable depending on the value of the property. Although pet owners would say it is impossible to put a dollar amount on a pet, many animals were either purchased or adopted for a fee which could be used to determine a monetary amount.

Monetary Value

Photo by: Amy Gahran

Domesticated pets such as small mammals and cats do not have a high monetary value but purebred dogs and specialty or exotic animals can range greatly in price and value. Birds such as large Cockatoos and Macaws can be worth thousands of dollars while purebred dogs can vary from $300 to as much as $14,000 depending on the type of dog, their lineage, and whether or not they come with papers. The punishment for theft of a pet depends on what that animal is worth. According to Utah Code 76-6-412:

• If the value of the pet is less than $500, the dog thief may face class B misdemeanor charges;
• If the pet is worth more than $500 but less than $1,500, it is a class A misdemeanor;
• Theft of a pet valued at more than $1,500 but less than $5,000 is a third degree felony;
• Stealing pricey animals that exceed the monetary value of $5,000 can result in second degree felonies.

These charges are enhanced if the offender has prior offenses related to theft, burglary, or robbery.

Reason for stealing an animal

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The majority of pet thefts occur for the purpose of making a dishonest profit by reselling the animal, however there are other reasons for stealing pets that could result in separate charges.

• Waiting for the reward. Many times when a pet goes missing, the family will offer a reward for the safe return of their furry family member. Some pets are stolen and then given back to the family once the reward is offered. Even if the plan is to return to pet, it is still considered theft or perhaps wrongful appropriation which is punishable one degree lower than theft according to Utah Code 76-6-404.5.

• Relocating a neighbor’s pet. Some pet thefts occur from a disgruntled neighbor getting rid of a nuance animal.There have been cases throughout Utah of animals being stolen and dropped off in remote areas or even let out of a fenced yard. Stealing a pet to abandon it or releasing it on the street could constitute cruelty to animals if the animal is left in what section 76-9-301 states to be a “situation where conditions present an immediate, direct, and serious threat to the life, safety, or health of the animal.” Charges for intentional abandonment of an animal can range from a class C to class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Stacy

• Fighting dogs. Sadly, some breeds that get a bad rap for being prone to dog aggression are often stolen based on that natural tendency. Pit bulls which are quickly becoming a beloved pet among families also have a history of violence towards other dogs and people if they are treated or raised poorly. This breed is known for being powerful while doing a lot of damage when they do attack and that may be why they are so popular in the illegal dog fighting ring. If dogs are stolen for use in dog fighting, the charges can include theft as well as third degree felony charge for training or causing a dog to fight as stated in Utah Code 76-9-301.1.

Missing or stolen

While there is an uptick of pet thefts throughout Utah, there are also many animals that go missing without any human involvement. Missing pets should be reported to animal control and posted on flyers as well as social media sources to get the word around. If someone truly feels their pet has been stolen, the owner should notify the authorities while also keeping an eye on resale sights such as Craigslist and Facebook yard sale sights. For anyone charged with stealing a pet whether to make a quick buck, get back at a neighbor, or commit another crime involving the pet, it is important to speak to an attorney about the charges prior to admitting fault to police.

Utah Women Arrested for Attempting to Traffic Meth over Southern Utah Border

Two separate incidents within a single week of December have ended in officers arresting multiple women for attempting to traffic meth over the southern Utah border near St. George.

I-15 drug corridor

Photo by: Nancy

I-15 is known as a drug corridor which is evident in two similar cases that happened south of St. George, Utah last month. In one incident, 43 year old Tara Evans of Annabella Utah was stopped for traffic violations in Mesquite Nevada, located about 30 miles south of the Utah border. A search of the vehicle Evans was driving turned up over four ounces of methamphetamine. Although she was only in possession of around four ounces of methamphetamine, she was charged by Nevada law as trafficking a controlled substance. This could be due to her admitting she brought the drugs with her over the border or the charging officer assuming that was the case.

Drug run to Nevada

In another incident that same week, two women from southern Utah were arrested shortly after passing through Mesquite Nevada and crossing back over the border into Utah. A search of that vehicle occupied by 30 year old Ashley Marie Harmer and 21 year old Mackenzie Lee Clark turned up multiple large wrapped packages of methamphetamine along with other instruments used to sell the substance. Harmer and Clark admitted to traveling to Nevada to obtain the drugs to transport back into the state of Utah.

Drug charges in two states

All three women are facing felony drug charges. Evans was arrested in Nevada and faces felony charges for drug trafficking there. Harmer and Clark were arrested in Utah for possession of meth with the intent to distribute. Since Clark is a first time offender, she faces third degree felony charges while Harmer faces first degree charges since this is not her first rodeo with drug trafficking and distribution. While all three women are facing charges in the state they were arrested in, it is possible they could face federal drug trafficking charges as well since they crossed over state lines while in possession of a controlled substance. Whether facing state or federal penalties, anyone facing drug charges are encouraged to refrain from admitting anything to authorities and seeking appropriate legal counsel immediately.