Funeral Director William Ellenberg Dismembers 800-Pound Body, License Suspended
More companies in the funeral industry are offering oversize caskets these days, but apparently difficulties remain when it comes to tending to the bodies of the obese. The owner of a crematory service in the greater Atlanta area recently admitted to dismembering the body of a deceased woman, estimated to weigh 800 pounds, in order to fit it into a crematory, reports WGCL-TV. On Sept. 20, his license was suspended.
William B. Ellenberg III, the funeral director of Metro Embalming and Crematory in Conyers, Ga., confessed to cutting off the fatty tissue on the side of a woman's legs back in July, but defended the action as necessary. "It wasn't disrespectful," he told the local TV station. "I did what I had to do to get the body cremated for the family."
Local police determined that such measures weren't illegal but that regulations require the funeral director to get consent from the deceased's family.
"When we go to mortuary school, we need to get permission to embalm the body -- which is a form of mutilation," explains R.A. Millsaps II, the manager and funeral director of Wages & Sons Funeral Home and Crematories in Lawrenceville, Ga. "If he did that without consent, I'm sure he could get his license pulled."
"It just sickens us to the heart that someone is doing this," Ray Wilson, the owner of Premier Crematory in Conyers, told WGCL-TV, adding that if a person could not fit into the crematory, he would recommend that the family choose burial instead.
There are other macabre twists to this story of Ellenberg's suspension. Ellenberg is alleged to have threatened the life of a business partner as well as his own inside a funeral establishment, according to the Georgia State Board of Funeral Services' suspension order. Ellenberg told WGCL-TV that these are lies propagated by a business partner with whom he was romantically involved. But the reporter noted that Ellenberg walks with a limp, and WGCL quoted a sheriff's department report as saying that Ellenberg shot himself in the leg in an attempted suicide on Aug. 15.
A man who claimed to be a former employee of Ellenberg's also told WGCL that he'd seen his ex-boss mistreat bodies.
Ellenberg is a 35-year veteran of the funeral industry, according to the Metro Embalming and Crematory website, and started out in funeral services as a teen, first by cutting grass and washing cars at a funeral home. He says that his goal has been to provide affordable services for the community, and he claims to have saved local families $700,000 in cremation fees.
Earlier this year, Ellenberg opened Ellenberg Funeral Services in Loganville, Ga., reports Loganville-Grayson Patch. But the business is no longer in operation.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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