Federal prosecutors in California have alleged that a member of the notorious Hells Angels Motorcycle Club illegally disposing of four bodies at a crematorium, all suspected to have been murdered.
Merl Hefferman, 54, reportedly confessed to having fellow Hells Angels member Joel Silva’s body illegally cremated back in June 2014.
The case is part of a larger investigation involving 12 members of the Hells Angels of Sonoma County, led by prosecutors from the Northern District of California.
Court documents reveal that Hefferman pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for disposing of Silva’s body, and is set to be sentenced. He could face up to seven years in prison.
How a Hell’s Angel disposed of rival’s bodies at a crematorium
Testimony by Levi Phipps, the crematory manager at the Yost & Webb Funeral Home in Fresno, detailed chilling events leading up to Silva’s murder.
Phipps claimed that Hefferman and his step-son threatened him with a firearm, then placed Silva’s body into the incinerator.
Phipps also testified that the defendant had previously expressed a strange fascination with the crematory and had requested access to the facility in order to “make something disappear.”
Prosecutors presented cellphone records that supported Phipps’ account that Hefferman called him the following day to warn him to keep his mouth shut about the crime.
Hell’s Angel covers up three murders by using a crematorium
The LA Times reported that Hefferman and his associates allegedly carried out three more similar cremations, but Hefferman has not yet been charged with the additional incidents.
Another individual linked to the Hells Angels, identified as Robbie Huff, went missing on February 11, 2015, months after Silva’s murder.
Prosecutors claim that Huff was behind in Silva’s murder and delivered Huff’s body to the crematory for incineration by himself.
Another victim, Art Carasis, was last seen at the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse on July 7, 2016. Investigators allege that Hefferman was involved in the illegal cremation of Carasis’ body as well.
The identity of the final victim, whose body was wrapped in plastic and duct tape, has not yet been disclosed publicly.
The shocking details emerging from the Hells Angels’ activities have left many families devastated.
Silva’s mother spoke about the emotional toll of not knowing her son’s whereabouts for several years in her victim impact statement.
Green funeral home lets corpses that were supposed to go to a crematorium rot
In another funeral home snafu, law enforcement authorities discovered “at least 189” decaying bodies at a “green” funeral home in Colorado, according to Fox 13.
They are attempting to identify the plethora of corpses and provide identification to their families “to prevent further victimization as they continue to grieve their loved ones,” Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller remarked.
Green funeral home becomes crime scene after not paying crematorium bills
The funeral home, which performs green burials that exclude the use of embalming fluid, was investigated by law enforcement over a report of an “abhorrent smell” coming from the business.
Owner Jon Hallford was already in hot water for missing tax payments, getting evicted from one of his properties, and being sued by a local crematory for not paying his tab.
Hallford had been accused of improperly storing bodies, and trying to conceal that he allegedly mishandled corpses.
What is a crematorium?
A crematorium is a specialized facility where human or animal remains are processed through high-temperature incineration, resulting in the transformation of the remains into ashes.
Apart from this primary purpose, a crematorium can encompass additional amenities that enhance the overall funeral experience. These amenities may include a chapel for memorial services, a viewing chamber for families to pay their last respects, and facilities for conducting traditional funerals.
According to the Neptune Society, crematoriums can also be situated within cemeteries or facilities that offer the option to inter the ashes.
How hot is a crematorium oven?
The crematorium oven is designed to operate at temperatures between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure optimal performance. During the cremation process, the body, enclosed in an approved container like a casket, is placed inside the chamber. Over a period of approximately two to three hours, most of the body is fully consumed by either extreme heat or evaporation.
Following this process, the remaining elements primarily consist of bone fragments and any non-combustible items, including jewelry, prostheses, and hardware like hinges that may have been overlooked during the preparation for cremation.
After allowing sufficient time for cooling, the non-organic materials are meticulously separated from the bone fragments. The human remains, now in the form of fine particles, undergo further processing.
Finally, these fine particles are either placed in a temporary container provided by the crematory or transferred into an urn chosen by the family, providing them a lasting memorial for their loved one.