Karen Greenlee

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Karen Greenlee
Born1956 (age 65–66)
OccupationFormer apprentice embalmer
Criminal chargeTheft of a hearse and interfering with a funeral
Penalty$255 fine and 11 days in jail

Karen Margaret[1] Greenlee (born 1956)[citation needed] is an American criminal who was convicted of stealing a hearse and having sex with the corpse it contained. She is considered as the "best-known modern practitioner of necrophilia"[2][3] and her case was the subject of much research due to her sex (only ten percent of known necrophiles are women)[4] as well as because of the highly detailed interview she gave about her extensive practice of necrophilia in the anthology book Apocalypse Culture.

Early life[edit]

Greenlee's father, Al Meyers, said Greenlee had been sexually molested at age 8 and raped by a teacher at 14, while living in Sonoma County, California. Afterwards, Greenlee moved with her family to Colfax, California, where she graduated from high school. Greenlee was married but separated at the time of her arrest.[5]

After her arrest, Greenlee worked as a desk-clerk receptionist at a motel in a state in the southwestern United States, but was unemployed at the time of her trial.[6]


Greenlee worked as an apprentice embalmer at the Memorial Lawn Mortuary in Sacramento, California. On December 17, 1979, she stole the 1975 Cadillac hearse she was driving to a private burial along with the body of a 33-year-old man (who had died a week before) it was carrying.[7][1] According to Lynne Stopkewich, who directed Kissed, a film based on Greenlee's story, she was driving the hearse to the funeral as intended until she saw the departed's family, then "did a big donut and took off".[8] She was found days later near Alleghany in Sierra County. According to Dr. Robert Rocheleau, the physician who pumped Greenlee's stomach, she was "extremely depressed" and had attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on about 20 pills of Tylenol and codeine, but survived.[7] She was found with a four-and-a-half page long written confession where she admitted having had sex with 20 to 40 other bodies of young men, calling it "an addiction".[3][9]

Because necrophilia was not illegal in California at the time, Greenlee was only accused of stealing the hearse and interfering with a funeral, for which she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $255 fine and spend 11 days in jail.[10] After her release, her probation included mandatory therapy, which she says helped her make peace with herself.[11]

Greenlee and Memorial Lawn Mortuary were sued for $1 million by Marian Gonzales, mother of victim John L. Mercure, for "severe emotional distress".[10] At the Superior Court hearing, the defense psychiatrist, Dr. Captane Thomson, said he did not think the event had "much of a lasting impact" on the victim's mother, who he said had a history of alcoholism and depression. Richard A. Kapuschinsky, a fellow embalmer and former colleague of Greenlee, testified to the jury that "there was no reason to suspect" Greenlee would commit such a crime, describing her as quiet and competent.[12] The lawsuit was eventually settled for $117,000 in general and punitive damages.[13]


A drawing by Karen Greenlee illustrating her perspective on necrophilia

A few years later in 1987, Greenlee gave a detailed and very frank interview entitled The Unrepentant Necrophile about her necrophiliac interests to Jim Morton for his book Apocalypse Culture, published by Feral House. To get a better impression of how she saw herself and her preferences, a selection of the statements from the interview are cited directly.

Karen Greenlee...
― about the relationship to her brothers, after they learned that she had stolen a hearse to spend two days with the corpse of the 33-year old John M.: “One of my brothers (...) still isn't comfortable around me. My other brother was more supportive, but even he had to ask How'd you do it?”(page 28)[11]
― answers to the question on how she prefers to interact sexually with a corpse; “People have this misconception that there has to be penetration for sexual gratification, which is bull! The most sensitive part of a woman is the front area anyway and that is what needs to be stimulated. Besides, there are different aspects of sexual expression: touchy-feely, 69, even holding hands. That body is just laying there, but it has what it takes to make me happy. The cold, the aura of death, the smell of death, the funereal surroundings, it all contributes. ”(page 28)[11]
― on the smell of death: “I find the odor of death very erotic. There are death odors and there are death odors. Now you get your body that’s been floating in the bay for two weeks, or a bum victim, that doesn’t attract me much, but a freshly embalmed corpse is something else. ” (page 28)[11]
― on working at funeral homes: “That's where I did a lot of my extracurricular activities. I had keyes so I'd slip back in after hours and spend all night in there.” (page 30)[11]
- on suicide: “I had tried to kill myself and I was living in a halfway house a couple of blocks from this funeral home. I decided to go to the mausoleum and try and kill myself again. The mausoleum had a door connecting it to the mortuary. I was sitting in there, real depressed, when, just for the hell of it, I decided to try running my driver’s license along the edge of the door and click! the door popped open. I couldn’t believe it, so I tried it again and the door popped open again! I went into the prep room and there happened to be a body in there. I had me some fun, did my thing and forgot all about killing myself.” (pages 32-33)[11]
- about how frustrating it is, when everybody wants to cure or change you: “It is [frustrating]. For a while I found myself thinking, “Yeah, this isn’t normal. Why can’t I be like other people. Why doesn’t the same pair of shoes fit me just right?” I went through all that personal hell and finally I accepted myself and realized that’s just me. That’s my nature and I might as well enjoy it. I’m miserable when I try to be something I’m not.” (page 33)[11]
- on psychotherapy: “The more I talked to these people [social workers, therapist..], the more I realized necrophilia makes sense for me. The reason I was having a problem with it was because I couldn’t accept myself. I was still trying to live my life by other people’s standards. To accept it was peace.” (page 34)[11]

Greenlee later reportedly regretted the interview, changed her identity, and moved to another city.[9]

Cultural impact[edit]

Greenlee's story inspired Barbara Gowdy's 1992 short story "We So Seldom Look On Love", which in turn inspired the 1996 Canadian independent film Kissed, directed by Lynne Stopkewich. Like Greenlee, the movie's main character was a young woman working as an embalmer fascinated with dead bodies and who engages in necrophilia.[14] Molly Parker's portrayal of the controversial role earned her an award for "Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role" at the 18th Genie Awards.[15] As of 1996, Greenlee was reported to be touring North America with her poetry, conferencing about necrophilia and sexual liberation.[16]

According to Esoterra, a leading extreme culture and horror magazine of the 90s,[17] Sally Jessy Raphael taped an interview with Karen Greenlee but refused to air it because Greenlee refused to show repentance for her actions.[18]

Greenlee contributed a chapter to The Gospel of Filth, a book detailing the history and occult influences of extreme metal band Cradle of Filth.[19] Greenlee's story was also the inspiration for a "raucous rock musical" entitled The Unrepentant Necrophile created by The Coldharts[20] presented at festivals like the fourth edition of the Twin Cities Horror Festival[21] and the 2017 Orlando Fringe Festival.[22]

Greenlee described herself as a "morgue rat" and considered necrophilia an addiction.[23]


  1. ^ a b Cox, John (19 December 1979). "Stolen Body and Hearse Recovered". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 244, no. 40513. p. B1. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  2. ^ Roach, Mary (27 April 2004). Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. WW Norton. p. 43. ISBN 978-0393324822. Retrieved 2 January 2017. When necrophilia's best-known modern-day practitioner, Sacramento mortuary worker Karen Greenlee, (...)
  3. ^ a b Aggrawal, Anil (December 7, 2010). "Case Studies – Karen Greenlee". Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. CRC Press. pp. 137–139. ISBN 978-1420089127. Karen Greenlee is one of the very few—and surely the most widely known—female necrophiles.
  4. ^ Quigley, Christine (2005). The Corpse: A History. McFarland & Company. p. 300. ISBN 978-0786424498.
  5. ^ Diaz, Jaime (8 April 1982). "Necrophilia Case 'We Do Care,' Her Father Says". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 249, no. 41353. p. B1. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  6. ^ Michelson, Herb (23 April 1982). "The Media and Necrophilia". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 249, no. 41368. p. B1. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Hearse, coffin taker "suicidal"". Lodi News-Sentinel. No. 12708. Lodi, California. UPI. 20 December 1979. p. 10. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  8. ^ Stopkewich, Lynne (4 November 1996). Post-Kissed screening talk (Speech). Stopkewich addressing the Directors Guild of Canada after a screening of Kissed. Deluxe Laboratory on Adelaide Street in Toronto. She was driving the hearse to the cemetery, but when she saw the family standing there she did a big donut with the hearse and took off. (As per Kay Armatage's notes of Stopkewich's speech)
  9. ^ a b Faraci, Devin (October 31, 2013). "Ghoul Of Your Dreams: Proud Necrophiliac Karen Greenlee". Birth.Movies.Death. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Diaz, Jaime (3 April 1982). "She Admits Sex with Dead". The Sacramento Bee. Vol. 249, no. 41348. p. B1. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Morton, Jim (1990). Parfrey, Adam (ed.). Apocalypse Culture (2nd revised ed.). Feral House. pp. 28–35. ISBN 978-0922915057.
  12. ^ Otten, Michael (March 2012). "Body's theft called lightning rod for anger". The Sacramento Union. ISBN 9781936239566. Retrieved February 24, 2016.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ "Man tries to resurrect dead father through power of prayer". Catholic.org. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2016. The mother of the dead man sued, asking for $1 million, but settled for $117, 000 in general and punitive damages.
  14. ^ Wånggren, Lena (May 10, 2013). "Gothic sexualities: female necrophilia". University of Stirling. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 25, 1997). "Kissed". Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  16. ^ Marchessault, Janine; Armatage, Kay; et al., eds. (26 June 1999). Gendering the Nation: Canadian Women's Cinema. University of Toronto Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0802041203. Today Greenlee, who is also a poet, tours North American with her writing and speaks to groups about necrophilia and sexual liberation.
  17. ^ Glacial, Rod (February 18, 2014). "Terreur sur papier glacé" [Terror on frosted paper]. Vice News (in French). Retrieved January 2, 2017. EsoTerra était le meilleur magazine de peur des années 1990.
  18. ^ Hensley, Chad (July 10, 2014). Esoterra Le magazine de la culture extrême [Esoterra: The magazine of extreme culture] (in French) (Republished anthology ed.). Éditions du Camion blanc [fr]. p. 43. ISBN 9782357795891. Retrieved 2 January 2017. Récemment, Sally Jessy Raphael a refusé de diffuser une émission qu'elle avait enregistrée avec Karen.
  19. ^ Baddeley, Gavin (10 October 2008). The Gospel of Filth: A Bible of Decadence & Darkness. Contributions by Dani Filth. FAB Press. ISBN 978-1903254516.
  20. ^ "THE UNREPENTANT NECROPHILE A rock opera by The Coldharts". Thecoldharts.com. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  21. ^ Huyck, Ed (29 October 2015). "Twin Cities Horror Festival rolls on in fourth year". City Pages. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  22. ^ Kubersky, Seth (22 May 2017). "Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'The Unrepentant Necrophile'". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  23. ^ Ramsland, Katherine (November 27, 2012). "Abuse of Corpse: Some people prefer the company of the dead". Psychology Today. Retrieved March 11, 2016.