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Nonprofit employee says he found 3 severed heads at desk and sage burning after filing workplace complaints

Dale Wheatley and three severed heads

Dale Wheatley discusses conditions at the body donation nonprofit where he works; three severed heads appear inset. (Screengrabs via WFLD)

A man at an Illinois nonprofit was greeted by a macabre and occult-like scene when he arrived at work two weeks ago: finding a bunch of sage burning and three severed heads placed atop his desk.

Dale Wheatley is a delivery man for the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, a group of eight in-state medical schools with a shared mission. According to the organization’s website, the AGA “procures, prepares and preserves donations for medical and scientific study,” and making its facilities open to health professionals and students. The donations obtained by the AGA are “an individual’s body after death,” their website explains.

But, according to Wheatley, the AGA has seen far better days.

“The place is deplorable. It’s in shabby conditions,” he said at a press conference this week reported by the Chicago Tribune. “If you’re in there for more than five minutes, if you start walking around, you start to stick to the floor.”

In comments reported by Chicago-based Fox affiliate WFLD, Wheatley said some donated bodies have been returned to the nonprofit due to the poorly preserved and kept state they are in.

“They’re sending donors back because of mold and rot, bugs,” he said. “There’s been instances where I’ve pulled donors from our storing room out of the racks, and rats have chewed through the bottom of the bag, through the feet.”

And the trio of severed heads, Wheatley believes, are retaliation for a recent series of complaints he lodged with his supervisors.

“My boss walked by, I asked him why the heads were at my desk,” he told WFLD. “He said they need to get back with their bodies so we can send them to cremation. I said, I understand that, ‘Why are they at my desk?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know Dale, there’s a lot of strange things happening.'”

The heads, Wheatley added, had an “obnoxious smell.”

The AGA’s Executive Vice President William O’Connor, however, strongly disputed the accusations leveled by Wheatley, the Tribune reported, saying the group receives some bodies in poorer states than others and denying that Wheatley was retaliated against – noting that handling body parts is part of his job description because he manages the rack room where bodies are stored before being sent out in a van.

Wheatley, with the help of employment attorney David Fish, has filed a series of complaints with various local regulators, the Tribune reports, to improve the conditions at the AGA.

“Mr. Wheatley believes that AGA should have, and utilize, a scale to weigh donors’ bodies to determine the amount of embalming fluid required to ensure they are not subject to premature rotting and shorted usefulness,” Fish told the paper.

“The embalming method requires that the bodies are weighed and the weight is applicable to the formula, and we don’t have a weight scale at AGA, so the bodies are being eyeballed, the weight’s not accurate and it’s leading to those conditions,” Wheatley explained to WFLD.

He also said his complaints concern the dignity of families impacted by donors and how their remains are treated.

“There are people that are in our cooler now that need their body parts back and they have been there for three years or more,” Wheatley told the TV station. “Right now at AGA, we have a number of cremains that need to go back to the families, over hundreds of cremains, sitting at our AGA right now.”

The rack room manager also filed a police report after the dismembered heads appeared on his desk. But, according to his attorney, he doesn’t want to have to file a lawsuit. He just wants to return to work once conditions there are changed.

“This is the only thing I can think about,” Wheatley told the Tribune. “I can’t even sleep. Just the only thing I can think about, running it over and over in my head. I can’t believe this is happening.”

Law&Crime reached out to the AGA for comment on this story, but no response was immediately forthcoming at publication.

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