BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- A former Massachusetts medical examiner had an illegal side business going when he signed cremation certificates for Bayview Crematory, a prosecutor said yesterday.
Dr. Putnam Breed, of Hampton Falls, is charged with taking money for signing the certificates without actually viewing the bodies. His trial began yesterday in Rockingham County Superior Court on nine charges of falsifying documents and four theft charges.
"He had an exclusive business relationship with Bayview," county prosecutor Tom Reid said.
The state closed the unlicensed crematory in Seabrook in February 2005 after police found unidentified remains, a body in a broken refrigeration unit, and incomplete records. Breed, who had been a district medical examiner in Massachusetts, told police that Bayview owner Derek Wallace of Salisbury, Mass., hired him to inspect bodies and issue cremation certificates. Reid said Breed received $35 per form, and may have signed blank forms in batches. The crematory handled as many as 2,000 bodies each year from funeral homes in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
"Just for swinging by a place on the way home and signing your name, that's a lot of money," Reid said.
Breed's lawyer, Phil Utter, said the doctor broke no state rules because at the time there were none regarding cremation certificates. During his opening arguments, Utter said instructions on crematory forms aren't rules.
"That's what the forms say, no doubt about it. But there's no law," he said. The state medical examiner was supposed to draw up rules, but never did, he said.
"For their failures, these prosecutors want to make my client pay," Utter said.