Funeral Home Director Bobby Wilks Buried Corpses In Coffins Filled With Trash

In 1989, a funeral director named Bobby Wilks was caught committing a set of crimes that are so disturbing they're almost unimaginable. Wilks would sell burial vaults, or cement structures that are meant to protect caskets, to grieving families and then bury the bodies without the vault. He carried out this scheme multiple times, and at some point his scheme changed from grand larceny to uninhibited desecration of a corpse. Crimes committed by funeral directors are some of the most heinous and painful crimes to think about: these are people who are meant to take care of loved ones when they pass on, and when they betray our trust it creates an abscess in grieving souls that can never be fixed.

The funeral home crimes of Bobby Wilks are not dissimilar to the crimes of grave robbers — people who steal dead bodies. Wilks would bury people without caskets, fill their caskets with trash, or just plain old dump them in a shallow grave. Even after he was arrested, Wilks continued his pattern of deviance in prison, even molesting children. 

  • Bobby Wilks Tricked Families Into Buying Burial Equipment That He Never Used

    Bobby Wilks Tricked Families Into Buying Burial Equipment That He Never Used
    Photo: Matt From London / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    How could anyone allow their loved one to be buried with a pile of trash? Bobby Wilks was very good at convincing people that the last thing they would want to do is watch the lowering of the casket into the ground.

    After selling the family on the idea of a burial vault, a concrete structure that keeps the casket from sinking, he would play the respectful funeral director and insist that a family's last memory of their loved one shouldn't be of seeing them lowered into the ground. Once when they were gone he would remove the remove the vault, and if the family was lucky, just bury the deceased in their coffin and re-sell the vault.

  • Wilks Would Bury Bodies Without Coffins

    Wilks Would Bury Bodies Without Coffins
    Photo: Mondo Tiki Man / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Bobby Wilks wasn't just overcharging people for burial vaults that he didn't use: sometimes he wouldn't even bury a body in a coffin. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for whom he decided to just dump in shallow hole, but often he would be careless and just toss a body without even placing it in a coffin. 

    One grave that was exhumed showed the complete lack of empathy that Wilks had for the families who had hired him. When police dug up the plot they found that a coffin had been buried sideways and that the dead's body parts had spilled out. 


  • Wilks Stuffed His Garbage In With The Deceased

    Wilks Stuffed His Garbage In With The Deceased
    Photo: amslerPIX / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    One of the most bizarrely utilitarian things that Wilks did with the bodies that he was meant to bury was turn them into his own private garbage dump. Once Wilks was caught police began to exhume the bodies of people he'd recently buried and they found that many of the caskets held the recently departed along with pieces of rubbish like apple cores and dog food cans. 

    Mary Masterson, who found soft drink bottles in the casket of her mother told UPI: "I could very easily have him killed. All it would take is one phone call. She's not a garbage disposal."

  • His Coworkers Had Been Suspicious For A Long Time

    His Coworkers Had Been Suspicious For A Long Time
    Photo: sgath92 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    After years of working alongside of Wilks, his coworkers began to suspect that something was off with how he worked. Mortician Al Jessie of Robertson County described the funeral home run by Wilks as a "shotgun, happy-go-lucky operation." That doesn't really sound like something you want in a funeral home. 

    Jessie noted to the Tennessee Funeral Board that he once saw Wilks move a body in the back of his Volkswagen bus because "the weather was too bad" to use a hearse. 


  • Some Of His Victims Were Buried In Cardboard

    Some Of His Victims Were Buried In Cardboard
    Photo: darkthirty / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason for the way that Bobby Wilks buried his victims. Some of them actually made it into their caskets, while others served as a human trash can. However, after exhuming many of the bodies that Wilks buried police discovered that the corpse Joseph Roath had simply wrapped in a piece of cardboard and tossed in a shallow grave. 

    The three-foot-deep hole and cardboard coffin were hardly where his family thought Roath would be spending eternity; his family had paid for both a casket and a vault. Wilks never confirmed whether or not this cardboard burial was the result of a personal vendetta against Roath.



  • Wilks Was Caught By A Suspicious Family Member

    Wilks Was Caught By A Suspicious Family Member
    Photo: CapCase / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Things were going smoothly for Wilks until a man named Donald Flatt became suspicious that his burial practices weren't on the up-and-up. UPI reported that Donald Flatt hid in a church adjacent to where Wilks worked. When Flatt saw that Wilks was burying the body of a relative without the vault for which his family had paid, he had the body of Danny Ray Pith exhumed. 

    What police found was worse than a coffin simply being buried without a vault. Pith's casket was filled with trash. There were rotten apple cores and a vacuum cleaner bag filled with dirt and dust in with Pith's body. 

    After the discovery of the first trash-filled casket, Flatt had his mother's body exhumed and discovered that not only was she buried without a vault, but her casket was broken and someone had stolen her wristwatch.