On May 6, a California judge marked the end to a series of gruesome crimes when he sentenced former mortician and Frenchtown resident David Wayne Sconce to 25 years in prison.
Sconce's legal troubles began in the mid-1980s in Pasadena, Calif., where law enforcement began investigating him and his parents, all owners of the Lamb Funeral Home. Police suspected the family of crimes that included removal of body parts, such as hearts, lungs and eyes, for sale to biological supply companies.
In 1989, Sconce pleaded guilty to 21 counts that stemmed from mishandling human remains. The Los Angeles Times reported that former Lamb Funeral Home employees testified against Sconce, saying the mortician used pliers to remove fillings from cadavers, "in a process Sconce called 'popping chops.'"
Sconce, who was also found to be intermingling bodies in a kiln used for mass cremations, received a five-year sentence. He was later charged with conspiracy to commit murder for plotting to kill a potential business rival, which resulted in a lifetime probation sentence.
In 2006, Sconce moved to Frenchtown. In 2012, federal prosecutors in Montana indicted him for violating his probation after he was discovered to be a felon in possession of a firearm. The Montana court mandated five years of probation for that offense. But prosecutors in California had him extradited for violating the terms of his lifetime probation mandated by that state's court.
California prosecutor Thomas Krag tells the Independent that Sconce, now 56, is a "ghoulish fiend" who has repeatedly demonstrated that he can't live as a law-abiding citizen. Not only did Sconce possess firearms, Krag says, but he stole them from his Frenchtown neighbors. Krag adds that at least one of those guns was sold at a Missoula pawn shop.
"He already had multiple strikes against him," Krag says.
Sconce's Santa Monica defense attorney, Roger Diamond, says that prosecutors have demonized and targeted his client for years. He denies that Sconce unlawfully took the weapons and further maintains that his client was simply using the guns to fend off wolves that were threatening his dogs.
"They made him look like a monster," Diamond says. "He isn't."