INDIANAPOLIS — A man who allegedly stole human brain samples from a medical history museum was arrested after a California man who bought some of the tissue online alerted authorities.
David Charles, 21, was arrested Dec. 16 after investigators were tipped off by a San Diego man who became suspicious about six jars of brain tissue he’d bought on eBay for $600.
Charles faces theft and other charges. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
Marion County court documents allege Charles broke into the Indiana Medical History Museum several times over the past year and stole jars of preserved human tissues, including brain samples, from long-dead psychiatric patients.
The museum is on the grounds of a former state psychiatric hospital, Central State Hospital, which closed in 1994. The museum’s director said the tissues are from autopsies spanning from roughly the 1890s to the 1940s.
“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,” the museum’s executive director, Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage, told The Indianapolis Star.
Indianapolis police had investigated several break-ins at the museum’s storage facility before the San Diego man helped lead police to Charles. That man called the Indianapolis museum after noticing labels on the containers that he bought on eBay, court documents state.
Indianapolis police detectives traced the transactions and eventually spoke to the seller. Police said that seller had obtained the brain matter from Charles.
Charles was arrested during a police sting after the eBay middleman arranged a meeting in a parking lot. Court documents state that the day before his arrest, Charles had stolen 60 jars of human tissue from the museum.
Nottage, who said she’s grateful much of the stolen material has been returned. She also said she spoke to the San Diego man who bought the six jars.
“He just said he liked to collect odd things,” she told The Star.