In a case that truly makes truth seem stranger, and creepier, than fiction, Indianapolis police report that a local man stole human brain tissue from the Indiana Medical History Museum and sold it for cash on the popular internet auction website, eBay.
21-year old David Charles reportedly broke into the museum on multiple occasions over the past year to steal the jars of preserved human brain and other tissue. The museum was formerly a state psychiatric facility, Central State Hospital, and the stolen brain tissue is reported to be that of deceased mental patients residing at the facility during a period of about 50 years spanning the late 19th and early 20th century.
Police had investigated the multiple break-ins at the Indiana Medical History Museum, but did not have any information to lead them to Charles until they received a tip from a caller in San Diego, California. The California man reportedly purchased six jars of the preserved brain tissue from another eBay user for $600, plus $70 to cover shipping costs. According to reports the man “just liked to collect odd things.” Police say that the purchaser began to suspect that the jars of tissue may have been stolen when he received them and noticed labels indicating that they were affiliated with the museum. The tissue was eventually traced back to Charles.
Police used the eBay middleman that sold the tissue to the California tipster to set up an operation to bust Charles, who had reportedly stolen an additional 60 jars of human tissue from the museum just one day earlier. Police arrested Charles as soon as he completed his deal with the middleman. They report that a man accompanying Charles to the site of the deal reached for a handgun and was controlled by officers.
Charles has been charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in addition to multiple counts of theft. Police say that there may be additional charges levied as well. No information has been provided as to whether anyone else will also be charged in the case at this time.
A spokesperson for the museum said that to have any interference with their collections is “extremely disturbing.” She is grateful to the California man who took the time to track down the possible source of the items, helping to ensure their safe return.
Charles isn’t the first to try to sell human tissue on eBay. Although the auction site has an official policy prohibiting the sale of actual functioning organs on its site, as they are illegal, previous users have made headlines by trying to sell kidneys on the site. In 1999, a Florida man listed his “fully functioning kidney” for sale. Though now believed to have been done in jest, the bidding reached $5.7 million before the listing was removed by eBay. That auction was quickly followed up with another, also removed from the site, offering a kidney for the discount price of just $4 million.
Indiana police will be continuing their investigation into Charles’ theft of human brain tissue and its subsequent resale on eBay. It is suspected that Charles may be behind multiple similar sales on the site as well.
By Michele Wessel