Cryonics firm disputes missing Ted Williams DNA

Originally published in the East Valley Tribune 2003.

Baseball legend Ted Williams' DNA is not missing from a Scottsdale cryonics company, and any damage to his body would be the result of regular procedures related to freezing a corpse for preservation, the company's director said Wednesday.

Carlos Mondragon, director of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, said during a news conference that a Sports Illustrated article claiming Williams' body is in poor condition stems from a disgruntled employee lashing out at the company.

Alcor is pursuing criminal charges and civil litigation against former chief operating officer Larry Johnson. In Florida, investigators also are examining whether a note stating Williams wanted to be frozen was forged, but the company has not been contacted about the matter, Mondragon said.

Johnson said in the current issue of the magazine that Williams' head was removed and had several holes and cracks. The article also reported that there were several samples of DNA taken, some of which were missing.

"It's kind of a silly assertion, because we don't store DNA. We're not in that business," Mondragon said.

Alcor is a nonprofit organization in north Scottsdale that freezes human bodies and brains in liquid nitrogen, with hopes that future medical breakthroughs can extend one's life. The company has 58 patients frozen, at a charge of about $120,000 for an entire body.

The company has 12 employees and is in a nondescript building in the Scottsdale Airpark alongside an interior design company and other businesses.

Mondragon would not comment on the specifics of any patient's arrangements, citing confidentiality, but generally denied the conduct alleged by Johnson.

Small cracks are an inescapable effect of freezing the body, and holes are drilled in the skull during the freezing process to monitor the brain, a common medical practice, Mondragon said. Both can be repaired, and are considered a trade-off for preservation, he said.

The director characterized Johnson as an ex-paramedic, unhappy with his pay and status at the company.

The company is pursuing civil liability and criminal charges against Johnson for violating a nondisclosure policy, which is designed to protect confidentiality of clients.

An Alcor spokesman contacted Scottsdale police after 9 p.m. Tuesday to report that Johnson had "quit work this week" and still had a company cell phone and pager, said officer Scott Reed, spokesman for the Scottsdale Police Department.

Johnson told police he no longer had the property and that it was being returned to Alcor, Reed said. "He showed us a shipping receipt," Reed said, but it didn't specify what was being shipped.

Reed said Johnson was not arrested and the investigation is continuing to determine whether possession of those items constituted a theft. "Right now, it doesn't appear so," Reed said.

The Scottsdale police investigation did not involve Williams' DNA, his head or other body parts, Reed said.

In addition to his allegations in Sports Illustrated, Johnson has a Web site — — where he charges Alcor of a "flagrant violation of the remains of a true American hero, ballplayer and humanitarian."

The site asks for donations, and early Wednesday offered photographs of Ted Williams' fate for a donation of $20. The offer was not up by evening.

"Thanks from the bottom of my heart for your support in my quest to FREE TED," the site states.

Mondragon said some of the photos appear fake and others are unrecognizable.

"Think about the character of somebody that would put pictures like that on a Web site," he said.

While having family members arrange cryonic preservation is uncommon, it is allowed once an Alcor attorney has determined there is power of attorney.

In Florida, investigators are examining whether a note stating Williams wanted to be frozen after his death was forged, and if so, whether a crime was committed, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The note is signed by Williams, his son, John Henry Williams, and Ted Williams' daughter, Claudia Williams. Its origin is being examined by the state attorney’s office that covers Citrus County, where Williams lived, said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney in Ocala.

His office will decide whether to pursue a full criminal investigation.

‘‘I’m trying to clarify what the allegation was, if the note was signed the way the note was presented it was signed and how the note was used,’’ Ridgway said.

Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell challenged the decision to send her father’s body to Alcor after his July 5, 2002, death, claiming the slugger’s 1996 will made clear he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered off the Florida coast.

- Tribune writer Steve Stout and The Associated Press contributed to this story.