Police say that Griffin stole the mortuary van in his attempt to escape pursuing police. As he hit the gas, a body on a gurney rolled out of the open back hatch and into the parking lot. In the police chase that followed, he hit multiple vehicles on I-20 until a tire blew on the van. He then ran into the wood line and escaped.
He is charged with entering an auto, motor vehicle theft and fleeing and attempting to elude police. The question is whether the dead body will be addressed in a charge. There is an interesting twist on that issue. Under the state law for “abuse of dead body” (O.C.G.A. 31-21-44.1 (2010) 31-21-44.1), the crime is defined as:
(a) (1) A person commits the offense of abuse of a dead body if, prior to interment and except as otherwise authorized by law, such person willfully defaces a dead body while the dead body is lying in state or is prepared for burial, showing, or cremation whether in a funeral establishment, place of worship, home, or other facility for lying in state or at a grave site. The lawful presence of the offender at a place where the dead body is abused shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this Code section.
Notably, the crime refers to a body “prior to interment” but requires defacing and also specifies “a funeral establishment, place of worship, home, or other facility for lying in state or at a grave site.” Grabbing a van in a parking lot may not qualify, particularly since the corpse simply rolled into the parking lot.
I expect additional charges but prosecutors may decide to ignore the corpus delicti in the parking lot on this particular crime.