IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Philadelphia says MOVE bombing victims' remains found

Bone specimens and fragments thought to have been improperly cremated and destroyed have been found, Philadelphia’s mayor said.
Philadelphia Prepares for COVID-19 Health Crisis
Dr. Thomas Farley, health commissioner for the City of Philadelphia, on March 6, 2020.NurPhoto / via Getty Images file

Remains of victims of a 1985 bombing that were thought to have been improperly cremated and destroyed have been found, Philadelphia’s mayor said Friday, a day after the resignation of the city’s health commissioner.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Friday that the remains, which belonged to the victims of a bombing of a Black organization, were found Friday afternoon in a refrigerated area of the medical examiner’s office.

"After comparing the contents of the box to an inventory of bone specimens and fragments from 2017, they appear to be the remains thought to have been cremated four years ago," he said.

The remains of the MOVE bombing victims were thought to have been cremated in 2017.

In May 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a bomb onto the compound of MOVE, killing six members, five of their children and destroying 65 homes in the neighborhood.

Kenney said in a statement Thursday that the commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, had learned years earlier of the remains and instead of “fully identifying those remains and returning them to the family, he made a decision to cremate and dispose of them.”

“This action lacked empathy for the victims, their family, and the deep pain that the MOVE bombing has brought to our city for nearly four decades,” the mayor said, adding he asked Farley to resign immediately.

Another official was placed on leave, and Dr. Cheryl Bettigole was tapped to serve as acting health commissioner, Kenney said Thursday.

On Friday, the mayor said he personally informed the victims’ families about the discovery of the remains.

“Once the investigation is complete, the City will return the remains to the victims’ family in accordance with their wishes,” he said.

“I am relieved that these remains were found and not destroyed, however I am also very sorry for the needless pain that this ordeal has caused the Africa family,” he added.

The mayor said there were still many unanswered questions, including why the remains had not been cremated as the health commissioner directed.

“There are also clearly many areas for improvement in procedures used by the Medical Examiner’s Office,” he said.