Mondragon says allegations are 'inaccurate'

Updated: August 14, 2003, 2:27 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A director of a cryonics company said to be storing the body of Ted Williams on Wednesday disputed claims by a former employee that some of the baseball legend's DNA is missing and that his remains have been treated poorly.

Carlos Mondragon, director of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, was responding to a Sports Illustrated article that cites former Chief Operating Officer Larry Johnson, who said Williams' body was decapitated by surgeons before being suspended in liquid nitrogen.

The article, which hit newsstands Wednesday, also said Williams' head was accidentally cracked 10 times, and that several samples of Williams' DNA are missing.

"Since his allegations are inaccurate and we find no instance where he has accused Alcor of any illegalities, we regard his attack as a spiteful parting shot,'' Mondragon said.

Mondragon said Johnson did not show up for work Monday but has not tendered his resignation as the magazine reported. However, Johnson did ask for a $500 advance when he picked up his last paycheck, Mondragon said.

The Associated Press was unable to contact Johnson for comment despite several attempts Wednesday. Several numbers listed under the same name had been temporarily disconnected, and others were for unrelated people.

The company won't confirm that Williams is among those preserved at Alcor, but his presence here was revealed in court documents when his oldest daughter challenged the decision to bring the body here.

Speaking generally, Mondragon noted that decapitation and shaving can be parts of the normal preservation process used by the company, and that the process normally causes microscopic cracks. He said that drilling holes in a head that is being preserved is also normal, but that it would be limited to one or two holes.

"We're disputing that any patient was negligently handled,'' Mondragon said.

Paula Lemler, the wife of Alcor President Jerry Lemler, said the report about the missing DNA is incorrect. She said Alcor doesn't take DNA or blood samples.

"If there's something we don't store and don't keep, there's no way we can lose it,'' Mondragon added.

The disappearance of DNA samples would be important because Williams' daughter, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, charged that her half-brother, John Henry Williams, planned to sell their father's DNA.

Ferrell and the baseball great's friends fought bitterly to recover the body.

They said Williams, who died on July 5, 2002, wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread in the ocean near Key West, Fla.

But instead, Williams' body was taken by private jet to Alcor. There, Williams' body was separated from his head in a procedure called neuroseparation, according to the magazine.

The operation was completed and Williams' head and body were preserved separately.

Lemler characterized Johnson as a disgruntled employee who made the allegations to make money on a Web site.

A Web site found at www.freeted.com includes an open letter purported to be from Johnson soliciting donations.

Early Wednesday, the site offered to give people who donated $20 access to a private site where they could view "extremely disturbing'' photographs documenting Ted Williams' fate.

The offer to show the photos was gone later in the day.

The AP couldn't independently confirm whether the Web site was actually connected to Johnson.

Also Wednesday, Alcor officials said they filed a report with Scottsdale police Tuesday alleging Johnson took a company cellular phone and pager. The company says Johnson disappeared this week.

Johnson told police he mailed back the property, and he gave them a copy of the delivery receipt, said Scottsdale Police Department spokesman Scott Reed.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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