Bill inspired by Memphis case could make ‘sexual abuse of a corpse’ a crime in Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers heard testimony about a proposed bill that would make sexual abuse of a corpse a criminal charge Wednesday.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D- Memphis) proposed the bill, called “April’s Law,” in honor of April Parham, who died in 2018 from cardiac arrest at age 37.

Parham died at Saint Francis Hospital. At the time, her parents said her last wish was to donate her organs.

“When the examiner was coming to get her eyes, her skin and bones, they found a security guard on top of her having sex with her. I won’t say it was embarrassing. It was just awful,” her mother Sheila Parham said.

That security guard, Cameron Wright, later pleaded guilty to the charge of abuse of a corpse. However, there was no charge on the books that incorporated the sexual nature of the situation. That’s why her parents testified in Nashville in front of the House criminal justice committee Wednesday.

“What we are wanting to do here today is this guy is walking around today. There was no consequences because there was no law to do anything about it,” James Parham said.

Wright is now on diversion, and he did not have to register as a sex offender.

“It won’t affect him, but it will affect the next person, this man or anyone else do this to. Just to be associated with somebody doing that, walking around, everything it really breaks my heart,” Sheila Parham said.

“I’m sorry it happened to you. But I’m grateful youre willing to share,” said Rep. Jerry Sexton (R- Bean Station) in the committee.

Hardaway called the bill a top priority. It passed the house’s criminal justice committee Wednesday and may reach the House floor next week.

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