Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Stephen King Reality Plays Out in Ohio Morgue

Kenneth Douglas, left, was indicted today for gross abuse of a corpse. David Steffen, right, is on Ohio's Death Row for killing Karen Range in 1982.

This could be a novel from one of Stephen Kings books, it is not. Often, truth is stranger then the story line.
For the family of Karen Range, murdered in 1982, new, front page blood chilling headlines, set the family back to relive the tragedy.

A former Hamilton County Morgue employee is held on $700,000 cash bond, accused of having sex with a corpse while on the job some 25 years ago. 55 year old Kenneth Douglas faces a charge of gross abuse of a corpse.

Prosecutors said they believe Douglas had other victims and they are investigating more cases. Judge Mallory set Douglas's bond at $700,000 cash.His charges date back to August of 1982, when door-to-door salesman David Steffen killed Karen Range, 19, at her Roselawn home.

Steffen confessed to the murder but denied raping Range. He was sent to Ohio's death row.
Douglas was in charge of checking Range's body into the morgue and prosecutors allege that duty gave Douglas the opportunity to have sex with Range's body
It wasn't until the now 55-year-old Douglas was arrested in March on drug charges that a DNA sample was taken, and linked him to the semen in Range's body. He is now charged with gross abuse of a corpse and faces 12 months in prison if he's convicted. Prosecutor Joe Deters is investigating to see whether there are other victims.

According to News 12 in Ohio, Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens held a news conference on the case. Owens say that although the incident happened many years before he took office, when he heard the allegations, "I nearly fell to the ground. That's the worst thing that can happen in a coroner's office."
Owens says currently, all morgue employees are required to give a DNA sample and that there are more strigent security measures in place to prevent such acts. Cameras now record all interaction between morgue employees and bodies.
Owens says he's been told Douglas left his job with the morgue abruptly, and later worked at the Jamison and Jamison Funeral Home in the West End. He also says his office has received phone calls from concerned families, some of which expressed an interest in suing the coroner's office.Having sex with a corpse is clinically called necrophilia. It's considered a mental disorder that can be treated but never cured.
This is an act that is viewed as repulsive and offensive. The desire to have sex with a corpse is almost impossible to understand.Necrophiliacs often get their first sexual urges as pre-teens, and it can become an obsession.
"What they will do, put themselves in a position to have sex with people who can't resist," said Dr. Scott Bresler, UC Division of Forensic Psychiatry. "This is one form of that. A dead person certainly can't resist."
Dr. Bresler describes necrophilia as a severe sexual fetish, but it's not just about sex, it leads to an imagined relationship.
"They can go into their mind and fantasize whatever they want in a very bizarre, obviously, way."It's all in their mind," said Dr. Stuart Bassman, psychologist. "To some extent, it's the same way with pornography. The person in their mind, imagined fantasy relationships."Dr. Bassman has treated necrophiliacs, and says in their mind, it's a loving act. Hard to understand, yes, but that could mean Karen Range's rapist didn't intend to hurt her.
"In their mind, they believe they're doing something very innocent," said Dr. Bassman. "Something that's not really hurting someone."
Kenneth Douglas worked at the coroner's office for 16 years (1976 to 1992). It could have been the opportunity he needed to act on his desire.
And it could have been an obsession. Dr. Bassman says necrophiliacs often have more than one victim.
"In terms of how many victims, most people can act out with a wide assortment of people."
So how does someone become a necrophiliac? Dr. Bassman says it's a product of genetics and their environment. They often suffer from feelings of abandonment, and typically one major event in their life activates those bizarre feelings.
The necrophilia accusations raise new questions about David Steffen's death sentence for Range's murder.
Under Ohio law, a defendant is eligible for the death penalty in murder cases combined with another conviction like robbery, rape, or burglary.
Attorney Mark Krumbein says Steffen's lawyers could argue that his jury should have never heard evidence about Range being raped, and the DNA is new evidence.
"In the early eighties there was no DNA testing," said Krumbein. The first murder in Hamilton County that used DNA testing was in 1988. That was my own case, so before that there was no DNA testing on murders in this county."

Deters says the new evidence shouldn't affect Steffen's death sentence. He says although Steffen may not have raped range, he did admit to attempted rape.


Anonymous said...

If the woman was already dead where the crime? I eally do not understand this case?

Anonymous said...

To: Anonymous - if someone has to explain this to you, then I think perhaps people around you should 'watch their backs', as I believe you may have a problem.

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