MISSOULA (AP) — A former California mortician who was convicted of conducting mass cremations and extracting dental gold and body parts from corpses in the late 1980s has been arrested in Montana on a warrant alleging he violated his lifetime probation.
David Wayne Sconce of Frenchtown was arrested Thursday. Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech ordered him held without bail on Friday.
The warrant said Sconce was wanted for deliberate homicide, but the Los Angeles County district attorney's office told the Missoulian he was only being sought for violating the terms of his parole.
Sconce, 56, was sentenced to five years of federal probation in October for stealing a neighbor's rifle and pawning it for $280, apparently triggering the arrest warrant for violating parole in the California case.
"Over the years, he's been in and out of court on probation violations," said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. "We are proceeding with the paperwork necessary to extradite him to Los Angeles."
Sconce was involved in the Lamb Funeral Home case in Pasadena, Calif., in the 1980s.
News coverage indicated he was charged with unlawfully removing and selling body parts from corpses and conducting mass cremations at a ceramics kiln and mixing the ashes, enabling the funeral home to charge less for services.
He also was charged with removing dental gold from bodies. He pleaded guilty to 21 charges, including hiring two men to beat up several competing morticians and failing to bury the body of a baby girl. Sconce served about half of a five-year sentence.
Sconce was charged with deliberate homicide in the 1985 poisoning death of a rival mortician, but that case was dismissed in 1991 after one expert was unable to find any trace of poison in the victim's exhumed body, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He later served time in prison in Arizona for counterfeiting bus tokens.
A California judge told Sconce in June 2002 that if he violated his probation again, he would be returned to prison.
"Make no mistake about this," Superior Court Judge Joseph De Vanon told Sconce. "If you come back before me on a violation, I will send you back to prison for life."
Sconce appeared before De Vanon after prosecutors said he flouted the terms of his probation and avoided the courts despite a warrant for his arrest. Deputy District Attorney Thomas Krag argued Sconce tried to manipulate probation officers in Arizona and California to "forget about him ... so he could somehow get involved again in the cremation business."
However, later that year, De Vanon rejected an effort to return Sconce to prison, saying probation officers in Arizona "put themselves in a position where they're the boy who cried wolf too many times."
Sconce argued his ex-wife was dating the probation officer who said Sconce had violated his probation and was planning to transport bodies for cremation. De Vanon told Sconce to stay out of Arizona.
Sconce's next court hearing in Missoula is set for Jan. 28.
Justice Court records indicate Sconce was to be appointed a public defender, but an attorney has not been assigned to his case.