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 Motor Vehicle Fuel in Utah

As fuel prices decrease in Utah, drivers may not be paying attention to the quantity of gasoline in their vehicles, unknowingly becoming the victims of theft of motor vehicle fuel.

Low gas prices could equal low awareness

Photo by: bradleyolin

Gas prices throughout Utah have been at a bearable price for some time now with prices estimated to continue a downward trend. This decrease in fuel cost could lead drivers to lower their awareness of how fast they are burning through a full tank. Could it be that drivers feel more at liberty to take the long way to work or an extended lazy Sunday drive or could they actually be working with less gas than they realize?

Just a little off the top

Gasoline is a necessity for anyone with a vehicle and those strapped for cash after the holidays may borrow from others hoping it will go unnoticed. This can happen from a neighbor, a passerby, or even by an employee to a company vehicle. While the theft of motor vehicle fuel at these low prices wouldn’t amount to much of a dollar amount, it can still result in at least a class B misdemeanor for theft.

Theft of motor vehicle fluid

Photo by : FolsomNatural

Another way fuel is stolen is straight from the pump. This can result in theft charges depending on the quantity and value stolen. Utah Code 76-6-404.7 states: “A person is guilty of theft of motor vehicle fuel who:

a) Causes a motor vehicle to leave any premises where motor vehicle fuel is offered for retail sale when motor fuel has been dispensed into:
(i) the fuel tank of the motor vehicle; or
(ii)any other container that is then removed from the premises by means of the motor vehicle; and
b) Commits the act (…) with the intent to deprive the owner or operator of the premises of the motor fuel without making full payment for the fuel.”

Loss of driving privilege

Beyond criminal charges, fuel thieves may also lose their driving privilege temporarily. That section also goes on the explain that “the sentencing court may order the suspension of the driver license of a person convicted of theft of motor vehicle fuel (…) for [no more] than 90 days”. Drivers in desperate need of gasoline are encouraged to seek other legal avenues for obtaining motor vehicle fuel or seek legal counsel if charges ensue.

Reduce the Risk of Additional Charges Following an Arrest

When someone is placed under arrest, they are booked under specific charges pertaining to that arrest. Just as the individuals arrested can fight to have charges reduced or dropped, there is also the chance that extra charges can be added following the arrest.

Failure to comply with arrest and booking

Photo by: Campaign Against Arms Trade

One main cause of added charges following an arrest is due to the behavior of the alleged offender during the time of being arrested and placed behind bars. Being handcuffed and whisked off to jail is a stressful moment that can unfortunately bring out the worst in people. Some individuals make a bad situation worse by:

• Resisting arrest or as Utah Code 76-8-305 states “refusing to perform any act required by lawful order necessary to effect the arrest or detention (…) made by a peace officer”, a class B misdemeanor;
• Attempting to flee police, a class A misdemeanor;
Spitting, urinating, or propelling any bodily fluid at an officer, potentially adding a third degree felony onto the list of charges;
• Physically assaulting an officer while in the custody of law enforcement, a third degree felony defined by section 76-5-102.5. If the charges are enhanced to aggravated assault by a prisoner, then the defendant may face an additional second or first degree felony as stated in 76-5-103.5; or
• Once at the local jail, kicking, punching, or otherwise damaging jail property, resulting in an added third degree felony.

Regardless of whether or not the arrestee feels they should be taken into police custody, they are encouraged to be respectful and cooperative during and after being read their Miranda rights. This does not mean they have to converse with officers regarding details of the arrest however, as that in itself can lead to added charges.

Spilling all the beans

Photo by: Emilio Küffer

While there are some who react vehemently to being placed under arrest, there are others who go too far the other direction by trying to be overly compliant to officers on the scene. In an effort to possibly smooth things over, some arrestees decide to share every single detail related to the charges. Not only can their over-the-top candor cement the charges against that individual, it can help investigators who may already be trying to tie other charges to the defendant. It is best to politely decline any discussion with officers until an attorney is present.

Accumulating charges prior to trial

Another way charges can be added is if more evidence comes to light or if the prosecution attempts to add or enhance charges. For example, if a person is arrested for possession of marijuana, the prosecution could look at the amount of marijuana in question, and attempt to call it enough to charge the defendant with intent to distribute, even if it was initially determined to be only for personal use. If the person drove through a school zone with the marijuana in their car, the prosecution could also add enhanced possession in a school zone charges. Maybe they had kids in the home or car, so by all means throw in some child abuse or child neglect charges on top. Also known as stacking charges, this is a common occurrence and a reason so many individuals get scared into accepting plea deals (a.k.a. pleading guilty to lesser charges) without first obtaining proper counsel for themselves.

Have an attorney ready

Photo by: Kevin Johnston

With so many variables working against someone following an arrest, the best plan to avoid additional charges is to:

• remain calm;
• be prepared with the name of a reputable attorney;
• give the defense attorney’s name to authorities during the arrest;
• Stay quiet until advised otherwise by counsel; and finally
• Trust that a knowledgeable attorney will be able to see through charge stacking to decide the best option possible for each defendant depending on their specific case.