ABOVE: Ryan McPherson, who also goes by Ryen McPherson, from a 2004 documentary on “Bumfights.”
Two American videographers who became national pariahs a decade ago for selling videos of homeless people beating each other were caught shipping parts of a dead baby and human skin they bought at a Bangkok night market.
Police said this afternoon they’ve contacted the FBI to seek information about Ryan Edward McPherson, aka Ryen McPherson, who was detained Saturday night along with Daniel Tanner after five boxes containing a baby’s head, right foot, sheets of human skin and a human heart were discovered at a DHL facility in Pathum Thani.
Watch the Coconut TV Raw Report on the Bangkok Police press conference:
“Judging from how the body parts were preserved in formaldehyde and cut, this must have been done in a suitable facility,” said Asst. Prof. Udomsak Hoonwijit, head of Department of Forensic Medicine at Chulalongkorn University. “As of now, we do not know which hospitals or education institutes they came from.”
Udomsak said they could have come from a hospital in the Thonburi area, west of the Chao Phraya river, as they were said to have been purchased at a night market there. The police did not name the hospital.
The preserved specimens resemble the types of materials displayed at Siriraj Hospital’s Medical Museum, where many preserved remains of fetuses and organs showing traumatic wounds such as stabbings and shootings are displayed.
Police display images of the body parts recovered from packages Ryan McPherson and Daniel Tanner attempted to ship via DHL on Saturday. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
The body parts were packed in five acrylic boxes when McPherson and Tanner attempted to ship them via DHL using a shop at BTS National Stadium on Saturday night.
McPherson, 31, told police an implausible story that he got in a tuk-tuk at Siam Center for a ride, and somehow ended up at the night market across the river in Thonburi (he couldn’t remember exactly where) where he happened upon the body parts and decided to send them to some friends back in the United States as a prank.
A DHL employee told the Bangkok Post the packages were declared as “toys.”
Police said they released McPherson and 33-year-old Tanner because they technically had not broken any Thai laws. The two left Thailand for Cambodia Sunday at the border in Sa Kaeo province.
“The suspects could be prosecuted for falsely declaring body parts for toys, and we do not have the authority to detain them,” Metropolitan Police Bureau commissioner Pol. Lt. Gen. Sriwara Rangsipramkul said.
Police are reviewing the intended destinations to establish a link and have contacted the FBI.
“We’re using our connection with INTERPOL to contact the FBI,” said police Lt. Col. Jaturong Thongpanlertkul. “We are gathering information about the recipient’s address in Las Vegas and will update with more information later.”
McPherson and Tanner detained by police in Bangkok. Photo: Coconuts Bangkok
One of their theories is the body parts were to be sold to a museum, Udomsak said.
Earlier reports indicated one of the suspects was Eugene Johnson, but that seems to be one of the intended recipients.
Udomsak said it is possible the parts came from murder victims, judging from visible wounds including a hole through the adult heart and a stab wound in one of the tattooed strips of skin.
The two sections of human skin are inked with ancient tattoos believed to bring invincibility. McPherson is heavily tattooed and a Pinterest account which appears to belong to Tanner shows a similar interest.
At today’s news conference, Coconuts asked police about McPherson’s history, but investigators said they were unaware of “Bumfights” but would look into it.
The Bumfights videos featured homeless men in San Diego, Calif., paid a few dollars to beat each other on camera for videos which were sold over the internet. He even convinced two men to tattoo their forehead with “BUMFIGHT” in exchange for $200.
“I can honestly say these people are deviants, they’re insane,” said one of the participants, Donnie Brennan, in a documentary report. They claimed to have sold hundreds of thousands of copies online for about $19.99 (THB650).
They also filmed segments of the men in Las Vegas, Nevada, where one of the packages was sent by McPherson and addressed in his care.
The packages were reportedly sent to Shoot to Kill Media Inc., McPherson’s media company.
On its website the company says it was started in 2007 and became an “innovator for nightclub visual content and event coverage before exploding on the scene as a full service commercial and music-video production company.”
Ryan E. McPherson is listed as the company’s director, and his personal website Stab the Princess includes the same video projects featured on Shoot to Kill’s site.
McPherson was arrested in 2002 for illegally paying people to fight. In 2006 the films’ four makers settled the case by agreeing not to make or sell any more Bumfights videos and paying the men shown in the videos.
Images from “Bumfights”
Interview with McPherson