Merced man found guilty in urn theft case

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comMay 2, 2014 

After deliberating about one hour Friday, a Merced County jury convicted a 55-year-old year man of stealing nine urns filled with human remains from a cemetery last year.

Marc Reid was found guilty of 11 felony counts of stealing human remains, 11 felony counts of grand theft and a single felony count of vandalism in connection with the May 8, 2013, theft from Evergreen Funeral Home and Memorial Park.

Merced police said the nine urns contained the remains of 11 people. Investigators said the urns were cut up or ground up and sold as scrap metal to Velocity Recycling on Highway 59.

Judge Mark V. Bacciarini ordered Reid to return to court June 2 for sentencing and to be held without bail in Merced County Jail until then. Reid, who has several prison convictions dating to the mid-1990s, faces about 18 years in state prison, authorities said.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Silveira, the prosecutor in the case, said she was satisfied with the verdict and praised the work of Merced police Detective Paul Johnson, the lead investigator in the case.

“I hope this does bring some measure of justice to the families affected in this case,” Silveira said.

Reid’s attorney, Tom Pfeiff, said his client was unhappy with the verdict.

“I know Mr. Reid is very disappointed,” Pfeiff said outside the courtroom Friday. “He insists he is innocent.”

An appeal after sentencing is likely, Pfeiff said.

In his closing arguments Friday, Pfeiff blasted the two key witnesses in the case, saying they were either “unreliable” or “lying” about Reid’s involvement in the theft. The defense attorney characterized the testimony of Richard Madsen and Crystal Febbie as “drug-induced hysteria, paranoia and just general confusion.”

Madsen, 68, is a co-defendant in the same case, but was charged separately. He is scheduled to appear in court again Tuesday for trial-setting hearing. Both attorneys said Madsen was not promised any leniency for his testimony during Reid’s trial, but Pfeiff said Madsen was still “hoping for mercy” from the court and prosecutors.

Madsen testified Thursday to being the “getaway driver” during the theft. He said Reid promised him a gram of speed for helping him pick up some “recycles.” Madsen said he only realized later that the “recycles” were urns containing human remains.

Madsen said Reid had stashed the urns just outside the cemetery before they picked them up together.

Pfeiff said he believed Madsen was lying about Reid’s involvement to take the focus off his own role. He focused on Madsen’s admitted daily methamphetamine use and Madsen’s story changing dramatically numerous times.

“He’s got to name somebody so it’s not just his responsibility,” Pfeiff argued Friday. “He’s a con (artist). He tries to engender sympathy even when he’s lying.”

During her closing arguments, Silveira acknowledged both Madsen and Febbie were less than perfect witnesses because of their admitted drug use and shifting stories. However, Silveira noted, Madsen’s story changed only when talking about his own involvement, but he was always “very clear” about Reid’s role in the crime.

Silveira told jurors Reid had referred to the nine urns as “recycling.”

“That’s what he thought of these 11 people that had been cremated and laid to rest: quick cash and a gateway to more drugs. That’s all he thought of them,” Silveira said. “These 11 people deserved to be interred in a safe and secure place for eternity and the defendant took that from them and their families.”

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

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