Burglar Busted After Mistaking Human Ashes for Cocaine

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 22, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Tennessee man allegedly stole a box of human ashes that he mistook for cocaine.

William "Billy" Cantrell, 28, of Nashville, allegedly stole the ashes and an Xbox from his neighbor and brought the spoils to his grandmother's house. Unfortunately for him, the ashes were the cremated remains of his neighbor's mother.

So how did Billy, who has been charged with aggravated burglary, mistake a lump of gray for grams of white?

Apparently, he never bothered to open the bag inside the box to check out its contents. Police somehow caught up to him first.

Open the bag, Billy. Always open the bag.

Even more bizarre, he never bothered to notice the white piece of paper taped over the bag, which his grandma says described the "date of birth, date of death, name and the funeral home" of the person who was cremated.

Cantrell's grandma said he wasn't sober at the time, which makes a lot more sense (sort of).

"William thought it was drugs, he thought he'd done found him a box of cocaine is what he thought," Billy's grandmother told Nashville's WTVF-TV.

Since burglary involves the specific intent to commit a crime once inside a building, voluntary intoxication can act as an affirmative defense if it prevented the defendant from forming the required intent.

But really, the chances are that a voluntary intoxication defense wouldn't pan out too well for ol' Billy.

Billy's mom, however, thinks her son's misunderstanding should be cut a little slack. "I'm not saying he's not guilty but he didn't know what he was stealing," she told WTVF.

But alas, a burglary occurs when you enter a structure without permission to commit a crime. It doesn't matter what you planned on stealing, it matters that you planned to steal, period.

Strangely enough, this isn't the first time an ashes-not-cocaine theft has occurred.

In 2011, two Florida teen burglars actually snorted the cremated remains of a man and two dogs, believing them to be cocaine.

Fortunately for Billy, he didn't quite get around to snorting a dead person.

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