NOBLE, Ga., Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Officials on Saturday began attempting to identify dozens of decomposing bodies that were found at a northwest Georgia crematorium and in nearby woods.
At least 50 bodies that had never been cremated were recovered at the Tri-State Crematory, and authorities said they expected to find more, possibly more than 100.
Walker County District Attorney Buzz Franklin Jr. said five warrants charging theft by deception were issued against a crematorium employee who turned himself in.
After an anonymous tip, bodies and partial remains, most of them without coffins, were found in crematorium buildings and nearby woods. The crematorium is located about 20 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tenn.
"We began locating skeletal remains of individuals throughout the wooded area," Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said. "Some were in coffins, some were in caskets, some were just thrown about the top of the ground."
He said the "most gruesome discovery" was when bodies were found stacked inside buildings adjacent to the crematory. Several bodies had been identified by Saturday afternoon. It could be several weeks before all are identified.
"The only explanation that we have received at this point is that the crematorium was inoperable for a period of time. It would work sometime, it would not work some other times. That is about the only thing that we have received to show a motive as to why this happened," Wilson said.
Gary McConnell, director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said grief counselors were being made available to relatives. He said the bodies would be returned to funeral homes so the deceased could "get the respect they deserve."