A man employed at a Chicago company that distributes human body parts for medical research says he was the subject of retaliation.
Dale Wheatley, the transportation coordinator for the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, says someone left three severed heads next to his desk after he complained about the condition of donor bodies.
“At first I was confused,” Wheatley tells PEOPLE. “My boss walked by, and I asked him why the heads were at my desk. He said they need to get back with their bodies so we can send them to cremation.”
Wheatley, who has been with the company for five years, says body parts have never been placed by his desk and are normally kept in designated storage areas before he delivers them to medical schools for students to dissect and study, PEOPLE reported.
The body parts are later collected and cremated and the ashes are returned to families.
“I asked him why they were at my desk,” Wheatley said. “And he said, ‘I don’t know Dale, there’s a lot of strange things going on.'”
Wheatley also said he found rolled-up bunches of smoldering sage throughout the office, which he also interpreted as harassment. Some cultures believe the burning of sage can help reduce negativity.
“I think they were trying to say it’s for warding off evil spirits,” Wheatley said. “And I was the evil spirit.”
Last month, Wheatley made a complaint about the donated bodies, saying they were not being properly embalmed or stored and as a result, were subject to rotting and mold.
There were also allegations that rats had chewed through storage bags and bitten cadavers’ feet, Wheatley’s attorney, David Fish added. He also states that other degradation and decomposition made the bodies unusable or shortened the length of time they can be studied.
“The body goes to waste if it’s not properly cared for,” Fish told PEOPLE.
One medical school lab manager previously contacted the association to report that some of the donors they received were in poor condition and couldn’t be used. The lab manager told the outlet that there was a case of bug infestation, decomposing tissue on the hands and feet.
According to the Chicago Tribune William O’Connor, the executive vice president of the non-profit company, denied that donor bodies were mistreated and said handling body parts is in Wheatley’s job description.
Wheatley made complaints with the Cook County Medical Examiner and the Illinois Department of Public Health, saying he wants to see better care taken of the bodies as well as the workspaces.
“He in general felt the facility needs to be improved,” Fish says. “They need to treat the donors with more respect.”