At first, it looks like the perfect crime. Cremation destroys human DNA, and cremated remains are about five to ten pounds of powder, enough to fill a shoebox. Seems like the easiest way in the world to get rid of a body.
In order for a (legit) cremation to take place, first the authorized next of kin and the funeral director have to sign the cremation authorization, and the body needs to be identified and checked for jewelry and surgically implanted equipment such as pacemakers, which need to be removed before cremation. The method of identification needs to be documented – did the decedent have a hospital ID band? Did a family member view the body and confirm his identity? If there is no ID band and the family does not want to view, the funeral director can ID the body based on a recent photo.
Then, a death certificate must be issued. The death certificate needs to be electronically signed by the funeral director, the decedent’s doctor, and the state registrar. My signature comes first. Then I have to track down the doctor, if the guy had one. If he did not have a doctor, or if the doctor can think of no reason why this person should be dead, I have to get the death certificate electronically signed by the medical examiner. Once these signatures are collected, the registrar signs the certificate and issues a cremation permit, after first checking with the medical examiner to make sure there is no reason this person may need to be autopsied. The crematory operator or funeral director cannot cremate without the cremation permit.
Of course, if you are a murderer, you would obviously forge the signatures on the cremation authorization. But it would be impossible to forge the doctor’s signature unless you had his login code and were in his office, so you would need to be in cahoots with a doctor who was in on your murder scheme. Then it could be very possible.
There is always the option of going to the crematory after everyone else is gone and just burning the body and tossing the cremains. However, the crematory keeps an electronic log of all cremations performed, and the state mortuary board periodically inspects crematories and matches burn logs with case files. Eventually they would find a cremation had taken place with no corresponding file.
Many crematories burn biohazard waste, but this is also documented, and this leaves nothing behind, except for anything containing metal. If I were to stuff a human body in with the trash, the crematory operator would then find a human skeleton when he opened the chamber. I would have to be the one to burn the trash if I were to dispose of a body this way. But, since licensed funeral directors are paid vastly higher than crematory operators, it would not make financial sense for the crematory to allow me to stay late and burn trash. This could only happen if I were in a two-person funeral home – which I am – but we rent a crematory used by several other funeral homes and staffed by low-paid crematory operators.
Of course, funeral homes and crematories are under constant video surveillance, probably because people have tried this before. I am perfectly welcome to work in the middle of the night, but I will be on video, and that video can be reviewed at any time. Any time I am bringing or removing a body, someone will see it. I would have to somehow crash the surveillance system.
So, I imagine I could get away with murder and disposing of a body for a short time, but I would be caught, unless I had a lot of higher-ups who were going along with the crime. I hope this makes you feel better when I invite you to come visit me at work.