An Indianapolis man was arrested for stealing human brain tissue from the Indiana Medical History Museum and selling them on eBay.
Indianapolis police had investigated several break-ins at the museum’s storage facility before a California phone call tipped police off to David Charles.
Break-ins started back in early September 2013. According to one report taken in mid-October, a museum worker said possibly 1,000 pieces were stolen from the museum. The worker also reported copper was stripped from the building.
According to a police report, the total value of glass jars containing the human tissue was valued at approximately $4,800.
David Charles, 21-years-old stole human brains and other preserved tissue from the 2,000 patients whose remains were autopsied from about the 1890s through the 1940s back when the museum was the Central State Hospital, which served patients with psychiatric and mental disorders from 1848 to 1994.
Police said one of Charles’ buyers, who paid $600 plus $70 shipping for six jars of human brain tissue, became suspicious when he saw the labels on the containers and tipped off authorities.
Detectives then traced the transactions and spoke to the seller, who claimed to have gotten the brain matter from Charles.
Police set up a sting Dec. 16 at a Dairy Queen parking lot between the eBay seller and Charles. Once the parking lot transaction took place, police swept in. One person accompanying Charles reached for a handgun but was tackled by officers, court documents said. His name and the names of others involved in the case were redacted in the documents.
David Charles faces charges of theft, marijuana possession and paraphernalia possession, according to court documents. Investigators also are looking into the possibility of additional charges, said A.J. Deer, a spokesman for the Marion County prosecutor’s office.
“This consumer did his due diligence and saw they were possibly stolen and contacted us,” IMPD officer Chris Wilburn told Fox59. “I mean, he was trying to sell 6 jars of human brain matter… it’s very bizarre.”
Police said Charles apparently had used social media in an attempt to sell the human tissue.
“Yo I got a bunch of human brains in jars for sale hmu for details u know u want one for Halloween,” an Oct. 14 post on a Facebook account for David Charles advertised.
Whether others are facing charges is still unclear. David Charles is now out on bond.
Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage is the executive director of the museum, she told the Detroit Free Press “It’s horrid anytime a museum collection is robbed.”
“A museum’s mission is to hold these materials as cultural and scientific objects in the public interest. To have that disturbed, to have that broken, is extraordinarily disturbing to those of us in the museum field,” she added.
Nottage, who is grateful that much of the stolen material has been returned, said she spoke to the San Diego man who paid $670 on eBay for human brain tissue.
“He just said he liked to collect odd things,” she said.