Urn theft trial underway in Merced

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comApril 30, 2014 

Opening statements begin today in the trial of one of two men accused of stealing nine urns filled with human remains from a Merced cemetery nearly a year ago.

Marc Reid, 55, has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges in connection with the May 8, 2013, theft of urns from Evergreen Funeral Home and Memorial Park. Human remains were thrown away and the urns sold for scrap metal, according to a Merced Police Department report.

A jury was seated Wednesday to hear the case in Merced Superior Court before Judge Mark V. Bacciarini. Opening statements by attorneys begin at 9:30 a.m.

Suspected co-conspirator Richard Madsen has been charged separately and has also pleaded not guilty. Madsen, 68, is expected to testify at Reid’s trial, possibly as early as today, his attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum said. Madsen’s trial has yet to be scheduled.

During a preliminary hearing in September, a witness reversed his claim that he had seen Reid and Madsen unload the brass urns from a van and watched them grind the urns into scrap metal.

Jason Todd Baker testified in September that he could no longer remember anything about the incident. He said he had no memory of being interviewed by police, but still insisted his statements were “coerced.”

Baker was in jail at the time after pleading to a theft charge in August. He said he only agreed to testify because he wanted the Merced County District Attorney’s Office to cut him a deal in his own case.

On the witness stand, Baker blamed his sudden memory issues on heroin use.

Officers denied pressuring Baker to testify and said his interviews with detectives were recorded. Officers said Baker likely was pressured by other inmates to change his story.

It is unclear if Baker will be called as a trial witness.

Attorneys on both sides of the case have declined to comment until the trial concludes.

According to the police report, Madsen wrote a letter apologizing for his “part in taking the urns.”

Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or rparsons@mercedsunstar.com.

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