Philly Health Chief Steps Down Over 'Appalling' Revelation

Dr. Thomas Farley admits he had remains of '85 MOVE victims cremated without telling families
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2021 7:48 AM CDT
Philly Health Chief Resigns for Cremating '85 Bombing Victims
Dr. Thomas Farley, ex-commissioner with Philadelphia's Department of Public Health, leaves after a news conference at City Hall on March 10, 2020, in Philadelphia.   (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

First came news that the burned bones of children killed in the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia were used for an online forensics course. Now the city's health chief has stepped down over a new revelation on the bombing that left 11 dead. In a statement released on the 36th anniversary of the bombing, Mayor Jim Kenney said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told him this week that in 2017 he discovered the medical examiner's office was still in possession of bombing victims' remains, and he decided to have them cremated and disposed of without IDing them or notifying the families, per the Guardian. "This action lacked empathy for the victims, their family, and the deep pain that the MOVE bombing has brought to our city for nearly four decades," Kenney said, calling it "appalling" at a Thursday press conference, per NBC Philadelphia.

He added in his statement that he'd already met with the Africa family—all members of the MOVE group use that surname, per CNN—and offered his apology on behalf of the city, though "I cannot imagine that it means much." The remains reportedly had been stored in a cardboard box or boxes in the medical examiner's office, though it's not yet clear how many victims were involved or their identities. In his own statement, Farley noted that he'd followed "standard procedure" in disposing of the remains, a decision he says was his alone, though he now calls it a "terrible error in judgment" that he "profoundly' regrets. Mike Africa Jr., who lost two family members in the bombing, tells the Guardian: "They took the remains of my family and they incinerated them. The only thing I can say at this point is that people have to be held accountable." Sam Gulino, the city's chief medical examiner, has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being looked into. (Read more Philadelphia stories.)

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