Before you go any further, this is fairly morbid. I write it with a heavy heart towards those families who suffered through the events. Today marks the 10th year that a grizzly discovery was made in Noble, GA that placed the national spotlight on Walker County and opened a dark chapter in our county and state’s history. On February 15, 2002, authorities discovered bodies stacked in caskets, vaults, and scattered throughout the property of the Tri-State Crematory.
A total of 334 bodies were recovered from the crematory property, but there’s many that were never recovered. There’s no telling what the actual count is. Ray Brent Marsh, the son of the founder of the crematorium Ray Marsh, took over the crematorium back in 1996. The Marsh family was a respected family among those who lived in Walker County. In fact, Brent Marsh’s mother, Clara Marsh, taught my dad English his sophomore year at Chattanooga Valley High School in Flintstone. I think I even met her once when I was younger.
Fast forward to 2002. We, along with other folks around the state and country, were stunned about what took place down in rural Noble, GA. People were angry at Brent Marsh and the rest of the Marsh family. Prosecutors looked at ways of charging Mr. Marsh since desecration of a corpse wasn’t a felony in Georgia at the time. When it was all said and done, Brent Marsh was charged with 787 felony counts: 179 counts of abuse of a corpse; 439 counts of theft; 122 counts of burial service fraud; and 47 counts of making false statements. The defense argued that deceased persons had no monetary value. The Georgia Supreme Court concurred. Long story short, a plea bargain was reached where Mr. Marsh was to serve 12 years in prison and 75 years on probation.
Changes came as a result of this awful event. Georgia passed laws to better regulate crematoriums in the state. Fast forward to today. We’re still paying off the bills to clean up the crematorium site and no memorial exists (with the exception of a memorial for the mass grave of the remains that were never identified at Tennessee-Georgia Memorial Park) in the county. The memorial might be changing thoughsince it seems like more and more people are wanting one erected as a reminder of what happened. I honestly have mixed feelings. I don’t think I’ll forget about it, but I certainly don’t want my county to be forever known for the Tri-State Crematory tragedy.
You can read a more inclusive account about what happened over at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.