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Pranksters Keep Pepperdine Tradition on the Move : Investigators at Dead End Over Cadaver Caper

November 27, 1987|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

Pepperdine University officials should know better by now. The cadaver is in serious jeopardy at this time of year.

This time, it was discovered in the university's library, with its feet propped up on a chair, its chin on its chest, in a classic post-study snoozing position.

There is only one cadaver on the Malibu campus, but during the week before new fraternity pledges are initiated, it's been known to travel.

'Hell Week' on Campus

Last week was "hell week" on the Pepperdine campus--just ask the custodian who found the body--a seasonal ritual of frenzied fraternity pranks and hazing rituals.

So far, no one has stepped forward to take credit or blame for removing the body from its storage locker, and campus police say they have no clues on the identities of the merry pranksters.

"We're at a dead end," said Jim Huffman, Pepperdine's deputy director of public safety. "They didn't leave any notes or anything."

Instead, all they left behind was a badly dressed body normally used in anatomy and physiology classes at Pepperdine. It was found attired in a straw sombrero, red T-shirt, gray sweat pants, gym socks and even had on an Ace bandage.

Campus officials said a female custodian came across the female cadaver shortly after 6 a.m. At first, she thought it was overzealous student who spent the night in the library. On closer inspection, her senses told her that the person was dead.

'Oh, Yes, She's Here'

"When they asked me to come to the library to pick it up, the smell hit me and I said, 'Oh, yes, she's here,' " said Marian Moyher, laboratory manager of the natural sciences division at Pepperdine. "The smell is very noticeable. It smells like something that has been preserved in formaldehyde. It's a dead giveaway."

Moyher said she was more disgusted than shocked by the prank, which she said is becoming all too familiar to university officials. Another cadaver was taken from the science laboratory about this time four years ago and placed in the Student Government Assn. office. Those pranksters were caught and placed on probation.

In both cases, the cadavers were not harmed. Just badly dressed.

"The whole thing is disgusting," Moyher said. "They could have gotten the same effect if they stuffed the clothes with newspapers. This has been done a number of times, and it just gets older each time. It's certainly not original."

The cadaver caper was just one of a series of pranks pulled by Pepperdine students last week, although it was more successful than some.

20 Students Arrested

Twenty Pepperdine students were arrested Friday night when they were caught trying to put up a fraternity logo near the Hollywood sign. Los Angeles police booked 18 men and two women on suspicion of trespassing. The students were released on their own recognizance.

Campus police say the suspects in the cadaver caper must have known exactly when they could move the body into the library. Huffman said the library was checked shortly after 3 a.m. and the cadaver was discovered at 6:25 a.m.

He said several student workers have access to the storage locker in the science building from which the body was taken, but, so far, no one is talking.

Pepperdine officials are treating the incident as a serious offense. Huffman said if the suspects are identified, they may be suspended. If it was a fraternity prank, as suspected, the fraternity could have its charter revoked, he said.

"It's kind of funny," he said. "But I can understand that if I had a relative who gave their body to science, it might not be funny at all."

New Security Measures

Huffman said this week that unless Pepperdine officials uncover new clues in the case, they are closing their investigation.

He said they will recommend new security measures for storing the cadaver, including limiting the number of keys to the locker to faculty and staff.

Moyher said the cadaver, which has been in Pepperdine's possession for about two years, already has been used by students in anatomy and sports medicine classes.

"Why they thought it was funny, I don't know," she said. "We used to pull practical jokes, too, but not like this. We don't like getting calls telling us our cadaver is in the library."

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