Frozen Head Key To $1M Inheritance Lawsuit

The son of a dead California scientist, whose head was cryogenically preserved, has been accused of fraud by the company appointed to carry out and preserve the remains.

Scientist and cryonics enthusiast Laurence Pilgeram agreed to pay Alcor Life Extension Foundation $120,000 to cryogenically preserve his body at a temperature of -196 degrees, until such a time when technology would be able to bring him back to life. 

But his son, Kurt, was said to be stunned in April 2015, a month after his father's death, when a package arrived at home said to be containing his father's ashes despite his father having asked for his entire body to be preserved.

In among the remnants was everything of Laurence's body from the shoulders down, but his head was not listed as part of the package.

Alcor claim that in an attempt to pursue his father's fortune, Kurt deliberately hid documents containing his father's posthumous wishes and blocked the company from receiving a lump sum payment to help pay for his father's  freezing.

The 90-page filing by Alcor attempts to quash the court's release of the elder Pilgeram's estate to his sons, including Kurt, potentially leaving him with only a single dollar of inheritance. 

'He not only signed up for his remains to be preserved by Alcor, but he also signed a codicil to his will that said that if family member challenged his wish to be cryo-preserved, they would be disinherited and only receive a dollar,' Diane Cafferata, who represents Alcor, told The Daily Beast.

The company also claims the father's will mysteriously disappeared, and is accusing the son of hiding it.

'After Pilgeram died in 2015, his son hid this codicil and all his father's testamentary documents from the probate court and falsely claimed his father died intestate,' which saw Kurt and his brother receive about $16 million according to Cafferata. 

'He also blocked Alcor's right to receive the $80,000 of life insurance money that Dr. Pilgeram had set aside to fund his preservation.'

Kurt has also accused Alcor of preserving a wax dummy instead of his father's actual head, however the company apparently sent him photographic evidence to counter such claims. 

'Kurt's goal was to destroy us,' Cafferata said. 

Alcor believes Kurt Pilgeram 'acted directly contrary' to his father's desires and is 'entitled to no more than a dollar,' according to the filing, which also alleges that Alcor has accrued millions of dollars of damages in defending itself from a 'frivolous and malicious lawsuit.' 

'We don't take a lot of things with us in death, but we have a pretty solid rule in California that you get to say what happens to your body,' said Cafferata. 'This is not a light-hearted thing that people do. They're very serious about it when it they sign up, and people need to believe that Alcor will fight for them.'

In the original lawsuit first filed by Kurt himself in 2018, he was suing Alcor for more than $1 million after claiming his father's head was actually removed from his body and placed in a vat of liquid nitrogen in Arizona – where Kurt says the rest of his father's body should be, still intact.

'They chopped his head off, burned his body, put it in a box and sent it to my house, Kurt told AZ Central. 'I want people to know what's going on,' he said last year.

He went on to say that he was both stunned and angry at the way his father's remains were carelessly handled and that the company was required to preserve all of his father's remains, no matter how damaged.

Kurt was reportedly left 'shocked, horrified and extremely distressed' over the lab's alleged wrongdoing.

'Kurt has suffered extreme emotional distress as a result of Alcor's accusations and has been injured as alleged in an amount in excess of $1million,' the complaint states.

'Alcor undertook such actions maliciously and oppressively, and with intent to cause injury.

'There is little, if any, hope of bringing his head 'back to life' under the circumstances here.'

Kurt's father, Laurence, was 90 when he died from an apparent cardiac arrest outside his Goleta home on April 10, 2015.

The scientist, who also worked in cryogenics for several decades, became the Alcor's 135th patient after his death, according to their website.

'My Dad just didn't fit in,' Kurt said, speaking of his father's obsession with preservation and mummification. 'He was always a little different, thinking about other things that were more lofty you might say.'

Cryonics – Greek for icy cold – is an experimental procedure in which extreme sub-zero temperatures are used to perfectly preserve a recently deceased body.

So far, as many as 164 people – 122 men and 42 women – have been cryogenically preserved at Alcor, according to their website, where the company claims to be the largest organisation of its kind.

Laurence Pilgeram was one of the early backers of the concept, entering an agreement with Alcor to venture into cryonic suspension after his death back in October 1990, when he was 67.

Twenty-five years later, Laurence died from a heart-attack walking home from a restaurant. He became Alcor member A-125.

As required in the program, any member's body must be placed on ice as soon as possible to prevent damage and prepare the cadaver for cryopreservation.

In Laurence's instance, he died on a Friday night but wasn't released from a county morgue for another three days, where he had been kept at a temperature of 30 degrees.

Alcor's attorney says the firm relies on relatives to inform them of any member's death, to ensure to process is enacted as soon as possible.

'The process is entirely dependent upon relatives timely and promptly notifying Alcor of a death,' the company state. 'If that is not done properly, there is a big problem.'

As a result of the delay, Alcor conducted a 'straight freeze', where Laurence was taken to a mortuary and covered with dry ice.

They then conducted a 'neuro-separation' on Laurence, transporting his head to Arizona for continued cool-down, while cremating the rest of his remains.

Kurt insisted the 'neuro-separation' was actually a 'mutilation'.

He said he didn't learn that his father's head had been removed from his body until a day after he received the ashes, when he had them tested.

After viewing photos of Alcor's facility, Kurt says he was also left wondering if his father's head was even being stored in Arizona.

In court filings, Alcor say they invited Kurt and his brother to the facility to help answer any doubts the family had. Alcor say they declined.

Alcor says on its website that some people prefer preserving just the head.

A full body may not be necessary in the future, it notes, because it may be possible to regrow a young, healthy body around a functioning brain.

'Generally speaking, many people in cryonics may feel the brain is the most important thing to be preserved,' Alcor attorney,  James Arrowood told AZ Central.

Kurt said he was 'shocked to say the least' on the morning his father's ashes arrived in the mail.

Inheriting a handsome estate from his father, Kurt says Laurence would want him to fight the case on his behalf, and is determined to continue use his resources to do so.

'A lot of people said I was just wasting my time, don't do it, you've got better things to do,' he said. 'But I felt that I couldn't let them get away with this.

'If I walk away, they are just going to keep doing this and it's wrong.'

Kurt says he's requesting his father's head – should Alcor still have it – be returned to the family so they can cremate it and scatter his full ashes on their family's ranch.

'I think he would probably want it that way, based on the series of events that have happened,' Kurt said,

So far, Kurt says he's spent $500,000 on the mounting the case against Alcor. Still in its researching stage, the dispute will go to trial in September.

This article originally appeared on Daily Mail.


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