Wood says they can meet, but he's not interested in using the leg to make quick cash.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Shannon Whisnant found a severed leg in a barbecue smoker.
Now, he wants to keep it in hopes of fame and money.
Whisnant plans to make his case personally Monday when John Wood, the Greenville, S.C. man who lost the leg in an airplane crash three years ago and stored it in a barbecue smoker, comes to Maiden, N.C., to pick up his lost appendage.
Wood says they can meet, but he’s not interested in using the leg to make quick cash.
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“I just think it’s despicable,” he said. “I don’t mind having the 15 minutes of fame, but I’m not looking to really profit off this thing.”
The story of Wood’s leg goes back to 2004 when it was shattered in a plane crash that killed his father and injured two other family members. Doctors tried to save the leg for eight months, but had to amputate. Wood told them that when he died, he wanted to be buried a whole man and asked if they could ship the leg to him.
They obliged. The leg — foot, ankle and most of the calf — spent time in Wood’s freezer until his electricity was cut off. Wood then hung it on a fence post in his front yard to dry.
He was later evicted from his home and spent time living in his van. His mom said she’d pay to store his belongings for a couple of months, but after that, the $42 payments were his responsibility.
The leg, carefully wrapped in paper and stored inside the smoker, went into storage. But Wood wasn’t making the payments, and last Tuesday the owner of the storage facility included the smoker in a sale of items from people who got behind on their rent.
Whisnant bought the smoker, opened it and “thought it might have been part of a missing person or someone’s ex-wife.” He contacted police.
Now that Whisnant knows the leg isn’t evidence of a murder, he feels it’s his property.
He says he called every lawyer in the Catawba County yellow pages looking for someone with experience in “cadaver law.”
The leg has brought both men some fame. Both have done interviews. Wood said he became a celebrity at a charity golf tournament that benefited amputees. Whisnant put a sign on the empty smoker charging for a look inside: adults $3, children $1.
He figures there could be more opportunities if he had the leg in hand. He knows there’s interest; he’s Googled the phrase “man finds leg in smoker” and got close to 2 million hits.
Wood said he was livid when he got the request from Whisnant.
“He’s making a freak show out of it,” Wood said. “He wants to go on ‘The Tonight Show’ and he wants to sell it to the National Enquirer and call Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. He wants to put money in his pocket with this thing.”
After meeting with a lawyer this weekend, Whisnant decided his best move was to convince Wood to share custody.
“It’s a strange incident and Halloween’s just around the corner,” he said. “The price will be going up if I get the leg.”