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Three sets of human remains still unidentified in Seattle ‘body broker’ case

Walter Mitchell is charged with abandoning at least 6 bodies from Washington in a desert, but records show other victims are still unidentified.

SEATTLE — Newly-released records show that authorities have been unable to identify three body parts found in the Arizona desert in December of 2020, in a case in which they have already ID’d six other victims from Washington state.

“Three DNA profiles did not match any of the known [victims],” read a memo dated Sept. 9, 2021, which was obtained through a public record request states.

The police reports were written by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, which tracked the human remains back to a former Seattle company called FutureGenex and its owner Walter Mitchell.

Mitchell is in jail in Yavapai County and has pleaded not guilty to 29 counts of abandoning a dead body.

FutureGenex was a for-profit company that accepted donations of human bodies and then sold body parts to medical and educational firms for research and training.  Mitchell has a long history in the business known as non-transplant anatomical donation.

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Mitchell closed his Seattle business in February of 2020, packed about a half dozen dissected bodies in dry ice in a U-haul trailer, and headed to Arizona where he once lived, according to court documents.

Body camera video released to KING 5’s reporting partners in Phoenix, KPNX-TV, shows two days in December 2020 in which sheriff’s deputies responded to frantic calls from citizens who reported finding body parts scattered near Prescott.

“Is that an arm?” one deputy can be heard asking as she responded to a remote scene where a total of 24 body parts would be found over a two-day search.

“Yes, that’s the right arm,” another deputy responds. 

They found five human heads at another scene the following day.

Investigators quickly ruled out homicide because of medical gauze and tags scattered with some of the body parts – ID tags and labels that led them to FutureGenex and Walter Mitchell.

“It made me very, very angry,” said Cheryl Patterson, whose ex-husband is among the remains found in Arizona, according to the public documents.

Douglas Patterson of Camano Island signed up to donate his body to the University of Washington School of Medicine after his death.  When he died at age 59 of heart failure, the medical school rejected his body because of his numerous health conditions, and Walter Mitchell was recommended as an alternative.

A UW spokesperson blamed a contractor for violating a university policy that prohibits the medical school from referring potential body donors to private whole body donation firms.

The KING 5 Investigators have spoken to family members of four victims linked to the Arizona case who said the university recommended Walter Mitchell and they thought that he had the medical school’s approval.

“You trust them to take your loved ones and treat them with respect and that’s not at all what happened,” Patterson said.  “I think he’s evil.”

In addition to the unidentified victims, records raise more questions about the intentions of Walter Mitchell.

In a search of Mitchell’s Arizona residence after his arrest, investigators found a cylindrical object locked inside a safe.

“The device was a pipe bomb and contained flammable powder inside,” investigators wrote in a follow-up police report.

Mitchell refused to answer questions and he is charged with possession of an explosive device in addition to criminal charges for allegedly dumping the body parts.