Three human fetuses found in package passing through San Francisco airport, feds say

The package was labeled “school teaching aids & t-shirt.”

But x-rays revealed something more macabre inside the parcel traveling through San Francisco International Airport in October 2018: three glass jars that held human fetuses.

That’s according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Northern California against Emily Cain of Colorado in May, charging Cain with smuggling and accusing her of sending a package “containing human fetal matter.”

U.S. marshals arrested Cain, 38, in Fort Collins, according to 9 News. Cain appeared in court to face charges on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty, court records said. The TV station reported that “she was released on a $5,000 bond with a GPS monitor.”

Authorities believe the decades-old fetuses belonged to a university before they ended up on the black market, the Mercury News reports.

Cain used the U.S. Postal Service to mail the package from Canon City, Colorado, on Oct. 15, 2018, according to the complaint. Postmarked for Southampton in the United Kingdom, the package traveled to Denver before reaching San Francisco, where workers found it on Oct. 24 just before it was set to be loaded on a flight to London, England.

When an initial Customs and Border Protection x-ray showed “what appeared to be a human shape” in the package, authorities decided to look closer, the complaint said. Agents then found the fetuses in jars, as well as “a handwritten note saying the sender was sorry for the delay.” The note was signed “Emily” and written on a card that said “G. Howard McGinty, Director and Curator of McGinty Fine Oddities.” The box also held a shirt with a skull and picture of Glenn McGinty, the complaint said.

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The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office tested the contents of the package and confirmed on Nov. 1 that real human remains were in the jars, according to the complaint.

Meanwhile, Cain called the Postal Service twice to ask why her package wasn’t arriving at its destination, according to the complaint, with Cain telling the help line that the recipient was “getting a little antsy” and that she thought “there was no customs leaving the country.”

Federal law enforcement soon got a warrant to search Facebook accounts associated with Cain and Glenn McGinty, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the social media search revealed that on Aug. 8, 2018, “Cain informed another Facebook user that she recently acquired a collection of three fetal wet specimens and one fetal skeleton wet specimen from a university lab collection and sent 7 photos.” Those photos showed the specimens that were uncovered at SFO, as well as a skeleton that inspectors didn’t find.

Cain said she’d sell all four for $20,000, the complaint said.

Cain allegedly told the Facebook user that “we don’t always post publicly. Especially with pieces like these … too controversial to be up everywhere, for everyone to see. I try to keep them for special clients and others we know may have an interest in them.”

She sent more fetus photos to another Facebook user on Aug. 11, 2018, and “sold a male fetus to this Facebook user for $500” on Aug. 16 — with the buyer confirming the package arrived in September, according to the complaint.

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Later in August, Cain told a third Facebook user that she was also selling “multiple human bones,” the complaint said. Cain also “explained that she recently purchased the fetal specimens from a female friend who is the head of a biomed department for a university who is downsizing.”

According to the complaint, the Department of Medical Education at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, confirmed that the three fetuses seized at SFO “belonged to the university and originated from the anatomy department. The anatomy department believes that the fetuses were stillborn and had been donated to the university between 1920 and 1930. The university stated that if the fetuses were no longer going to be kept by the university, policy dictates the fetuses are to be cremated and not sold.”

A Creighton spokesperson said the school is “cooperating with federal authorities,” 9 News reported.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.