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Unwanted guests land in newcomer's yard

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mystery: Mary Wilkins has been carrying the cremated remains of Samuel Jackson Propps and Patricia Propps in her vehicle since she found them in a trash pile on her property June 6. Photo/Jared
Human ashes are found in pile of trash dumped on property in Fulton County

A Fulton County woman was horrified to find human remains in a pile of trash dumped on her property June 6.

Mary Wilkins was pulling out of her driveway when she decided to sift through the trash hoping to find a clue as to who left the mess in her yard.

She came upon a name plate taped to a small copper box and recoiled in horror as she realized the copper box contained human remains.

Wilkins discovered the cremated ashes of Samuel Jackson Propps in the copper urn and the remains of Patricia Propps in a taped-up box, both of origins unknown.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do with these two bodies," Wilkins said. "Right know I just drive them around in my truck. I hope I don't get stopped with two dead people in my trunk."

Officials at the Fulton County Sheriff's Department said Wilkins contacted them but they don't know what to do with the cremated remains.

"This is very unusual," said Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger. "We've never had a case like this before."

According to a certificate taped to Samuel Jackson Propps' urn, his remains were sent to his son, Donald Propps, after his death in California in 1978.

Chief deputy Paul Martin of the Fulton County Sheriff's Department said a Donald Propps did live in Salem but he is deceased.

"More than likely somebody was cleaning out his house after he (Donald Propps) passed away and that's how the remains ended up in the trash," Martin said. "We need to find out if they have some family around here."

Patricia Propps died on Aug. 4, 1991, and was cremated at the Kirby Tucker Cemetery and Crematory in Mountain Home, according to a certificate attached to her box.

Martin said investigators do not know if Samuel J. Propps and Patricia Propps were married. He said he is trying to locate the last place where Donald Propps lived.

"If we can find out where he used to live, we'll have a better idea about who threw this stuff out," Martin said.

Wilkins said she wants the person who disposed of the Proppses on her property charged with a crime.

Fulton County Prosecuting Attorney Dwayne Plumlee said he is baffled by this case.

"I don't know if I've ever heard about a case like this before," Plumlee said. "Frankly, I don't know if there is a law that pertains to the dumping of human ashes. It's something I will have to research."

According to Arkansas statute 5-60-101, "a person who disinters, removes, dissects, mutilates, or physically mistreats a corpse in a manner that is offensive to a person of reasonable sensibilities can be charged with abuse of a corpse, a class D felony."

The statute does not mention cremated remains.

Martin and Plumlee said they don't think cremated remains fall under that statute.

The person who dumped the cremated remains and trash onto Wilkins property can be charged with littering, a class A misdemeanor, Martin said.

Wilkins, who moved to Fulton County from Wisconsin last fall, said her new life in Arkansas has been eventful.

"Since I've been here my husband left me and I found two dead people in the trash," Wilkins said. "Other than that I like it here."

Wilkins said she stopped searching the trash after finding the two cremated bodies.

"I'd already found two bodies in there," Wilkins said. "I was afraid I might find another one."

Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said county workers cleaned up the trash on Wilkins' property and another pile of garbage discarded just down the road from Wilkins' property.

"I'd like to know who done this so we could charge them a fee," Willett said. "People don't need to be dumping their trash on their neighbors."

Wilkins said she still wonders what she should do with the cremated remains. She said she thought about giving them to the sheriff's department, but decided against it.

"I don't want them (sheriff's department) to throw them on a shelf and forget about them," Wilkins said. "I think they should be properly buried by their relatives."

"I told her she could do whatever she wanted to do with them," Martin said. "I'm pretty sure there's nothing we could do about that."

If their relatives can't be found, Wilkins said she will give the Proppses' remains to a local preacher for a burial.

Wilkins moved to the area because she likes to hunt, fish and take care of her animals, she said.

"Yeah, it's pretty peaceful out here with me, my animals and these two dead people," Wilkins said with a laugh. "This is absolutely crazy, isn't it?"

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