PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A former Seattle body broker rejected a plea agreement, fired his lawyer, and asked the judge to proceed to trial on 29 counts of abandonment or concealment of a dead body.
The decision Monday in a Prescott, Arizona courtroom upended months of negotiations between prosecutors and the attorney representing Walter H. Mitchell, the former owner of FutureGenex.
“I am a subject matter expert in very few things, but I am a subject matter expert in my case,” Mitchell said when asked by the judge why he wanted to represent himself at trial.
The judge set a trial date of August 29 for Mitchell to face charges that he dumped 29 human body parts in the Prescott National Forest sometime during December of 2020. The first remains were discovered by a couple collecting firewood the day after Christmas. The second site was found miles away by hunters the next day.
Yavapai County Sheriff's deputies found five human heads, sections of arms and legs, and other body parts after thorough searches of both sites.
Medical tags on some of the body parts led deputies to FutureGenex, a Seattle-area company that folded in February of 2020. FutureGenex sought donors who were willing to offer their bodies after death for medical and scientific research.
Police and prosecutors have said very little about the case.
According to court and police documents obtained by the KING 5 Investigators through public records requests, all the victims dumped in the Arizona wilderness appear to be from Washington state.
“It made me very angry,” said Cheryl Patterson of Mountlake Terrace when investigators told her that her ex-husband’s remains had been identified through a DNA test. “He’s an evil man. I think he’s evil,” Patterson said of Mitchell.
Patterson said her ex-husband, Doug Patterson, intended to donate his body to the University of Washington School of Medicine “…in hopes that he could help someone.” But a contractor for the university rejected Doug’s body after death and recommended Mitchell’s company as an alternative.
Several family members of other victims told KING 5 that they also received referrals to Mitchell after the UW rejected their loved one’s body.
According to police reports, Mitchell closed FutureGenex in February of 2020 and headed for Arizona, where he used to live and work in the field of "whole body donation." He traveled south in a U-Haul truck packed with dry ice and the body parts of several Washington donors.
It’s unclear why he would have scattered the body parts in Arizona.
In addition to the Yavapai County case, Mitchell also faces charges in Maricopa County for allegedly possessing a pipe bomb that investigators say they found when they searched his apartment.