FBI agents spent hours in Detroit Thursday investigating a business owned by a man who was previously alleged to be a member of the black market trade of human body parts.
According to WXYZ-TV, bone fragments were recovered during the FBI investigation at the property located on Detroit's east side, near the former city airport. The local ABC affiliate said the building is connected to a business named International Biological Inc., a biological research company owned by Arthur Rathburn of Grosse Pointe Park.
Here's where it gets weird: the Detroit Free Press reports Rathburn was a subject of the 2006 book by Annie Cheney, Body Brokers: Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains. The book is an expose of the underworld's cadaver trade based on her 2004 Harper's article . A 1989 Toledo Blade article describes Rathburn as the coordinator of Michigan's anatomical donation program.
Readers will be horrified by this carefully researched exposé revealing that the trade in corpses for medical research and education didn't go out with 19th-century grave robbers. Cheney, who won a Society of Professional Journalists award for the Harper's article that gave rise to this book, describes the case of Arthur Rathburn, a morgue attendant at the University of Michigan Medical School, who supplied body parts to the American Association of Clinical Anatomists and other organizations until he was caught and fired.
A 2006 USA Today article on Cheney's book said "body snatchers" sell bones, tendons and body parts (excluding transplantable organs, which are regulated) to tissue banks, research institutions and medical schools. A brain can fetch $600, while a human elbow could cost $850.
"In 2002, by his own account Rathburn delivered forty-two heads and necks to the Marriott Marquis on Broadway," Cheney writes in Body Brokers.
At the Detroit property on Grinnell Street, WJBK-TV showed video of a half-dozen FBI agents carrying away brightly colored trash bags filled with evidence. Blue FBI tents dot the property.
While the FBI wouldn't comment on the specifics of the investigation, a source told the Free Press the search involved the stolen body part trade.
This FBI investigation has not led to charges for Rathburn at this time.
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