A Panguitch man who allegedly kept his mother’s body in a coal bin for weeks after she died told police that he’d promised her a “green burial,” charging documents say.
Pete Marker, 66, was charged Thursday in 6th District Court with abuse or desecration of a human body, a third-degree felony, and failure to report finding a human body, a class B misdemeanor. His mother, 90-year-old Roma Bowman, had reportedly died Dec. 25, more than two weeks prior to when police found her body buried in the coal bin.
Police were tipped off when Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins received a copy of a letter Marker had written to his niece, who is also Bowman’s granddaughter, charges state. The letter said that Bowman had passed away in her bed, and that Marker had buried her body in the hills west of Panguitch.
The sheriff and deputies arrested Marker at his home Wednesday. In an interview with police, Marker said that Bowman had gone to bed about 8 p.m. Christmas night. When he checked on her at about 11 p.m., she wasn’t breathing.
He told police that because he’d promised his mother a green burial, he went into the mountains to find a spot to bury her. However, there were elk hunters in the area, and “he did not dare bury her with all the people around,” charges say.
He admitted to knowing that it is illegal to bury someone in the hills, according to charges, and said he had considered notifying the sheriff’s office, but didn’t.
Marker told police he’d placed a denim jacket on the woman and wrapped her in bedding before placing her on a large green Gatorade sign, which he then dragged into the basement of the home, charges state.
Marker then placed Bowman in the coal storage area of the home that had been unused for several years, charges state. He covered her with coal before boarding the storage room up again, he told police.
After his arrest, he consented to letting police search the home, charges say. There, police removed wooden planks from the doorway of the coal storage area, where they found her body wrapped in bedding and a black tarp with a carpet deodorizer scattered on it. There was a “strong odor” in the area, charges say.
Under the body, deputies found a cushion and the sign reportedly used to haul her body downstairs, charges say. The body had been “totally buried in coal,” according to charges.
Deputies determined that the body matched Bowman’s description, and it was later transported to a mortuary, charges state.
Marker is being held at the Garfield County jail in lieu of $200,000 cash-only. Officers requested a higher bail than normal because of the “unusual circumstances surrounding the burial of the body,” charges say. “We are also unable to rule out foul play at this time.”
The case has been assigned to Judge Wallace Lee. No court dates had been set as of Friday evening.
Green burial involves neither cremation nor embalming fluids, according to funerals.org. The body is placed in a biodegradable coffin or shroud and interred without a concrete burial vault. The goal is complete decomposition of the body and its natural return to the soil, the website says.
This type of burial is not allowed in most commercial cemeteries in Utah, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Utah, but some rural cemeteries may allow it. Local ordinances also govern whether burials are permitted on rural private properties.