ARIZONA, USA — Prosecutors offered a plea deal to a former Seattle “body broker” who is charged with dumping body parts from Washington state donors into the Arizona wilderness.
The KING 5 Investigators learned the agreement would allow Walter Mitchell to plead to nine counts of Abandonment or Concealment of a Dead Body. Twenty additional counts would be dismissed.
The existence of the plea offer, but not the specific details, was revealed during a Monday court appearance in Yavapai County, Arizona, where Mitchell has remained in jail since his arrest in December of 2020.
Mitchell was expected to withdraw his “not guilty” plea to the charges but that was delayed at the request of the defense and prosecutors who said they needed more time to get input from the families of Mitchell’s victims.
Mitchell owned FutureGenex in Seattle, a small business that sought donors who were willing to offer their bodies after death for medical education and research. As a body broker, Mitchell collected the donated bodies and dissected them for sale to companies that provide medical training to doctors and those that need human body parts for research projects.
As KING 5 previously reported, Mitchell received some of the bodies that were rejected by the University of Washington School of Medicine’s “Willed Body Program.”
According to charging documents, Mitchell shut down FutureGenex in early 2020 and headed to Arizona with several body parts packed in coolers. For reasons that are not entirely clear, court records say Mitchell disposed of the body parts months later by dumping them in two locations near the Prescott National Forest.
The case raised anew questions about lax regulations in the “whole body donation” industry, as it is known. There are no federal laws that require licensing or standards for companies that solicit human bodies for research. They are separate from organizations that perform organ transplants into living humans, which is highly regulated.
“It made me very angry,” Cheryl Patterson said in an interview with KING 5 last month. Her ex-husband, Doug, was one of six Washington state donors to Mitchell’s companies whose remains in the desert were positively identified through DNA tests.
Records show three of the nine victims in Arizona are still unidentified.
Mitchell’s change-of-plea hearing is now set for April.
His legal troubles won’t be over then, though. In a separate case he is charged with possessing a pipe bomb that detectives say they found in his home after his arrest.