Karen Greenlee (born 1956) is an American criminal who was convicted of stealing a hearse and having sex with the corpse it contained. She is considered as the "best-known modern practitioner of necrophilia" and her case was the subject of much research due to her gender (nine out of ten necrophiles are men) as well as because of the highly detailed interview she gave about her extensive practice of necrophilia in the anthology book Apocalypse Culture.
Greenlee worked as an apprentice embalmer at the Memorial Lawn Mortuary in Sacramento, California. On December 17, 1979, she stole the 1975 Cadillac hearse she was driving to a funeral along with the body of a 33-year-old man (who had died a week before) it was carrying. According to Lynne Stopkewich, who directed Kissed, a film based on Greenlee's story, she was driving the hearse to the funeral as intended until she saw the departed's family, then "did a big donut and took off". She was found days later near Alleghany in Sierra County. According to Dr. Robert Rocheleau, the physician who pumped Greenlee's stomach, she was "extremely depressed" and had attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on about 20 pills of Tylenol and codeine, but survived. She was found with a four-and-a-half page long written confession where she admitted having had sex with 20 to 40 other bodies of young men, calling it "an addiction".
Because necrophilia was not illegal in California at the time, Greenlee was only accused of stealing the hearse and interfering with a funeral, for which she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $255 fine and spend 11 days in jail. After her release, her probation included mandatory therapy, which she says helped her make peace with herself.
Greenlee and Memorial Lawn Mortuary were sued for $1 million by Marian Gonzales, mother of victim John L. Mercure, for "severe emotional distress". At the Superior Court hearing, the defense psychiatrist, Dr. Captane Thomson, said he did not think the event had "much of a lasting impact" on the victim's mother, who he said had a history of alcoholism and depression. Richard A. Kapuschinsky, a fellow embalmer and former colleague of Greenlee, testified to the jury that "there was no reason to suspect" Greenlee would commit such a crime, describing her as quiet and competent. The lawsuit was eventually settled for $117,000 in general and punitive damages.
A few years later in 1987, Greenlee gave a detailed and very frank interview entitled The Unrepentant Necrophile about her necrophiliac interests to Jim Morton for his book Apocalypse Culture, published by Feral House. She described her preference for younger men, what sexual acts she would perform with their bodies, as well as her attraction for the smells of blood and death. She described herself as a "morgue rat" and considered necrophilia an addiction.
She later reportedly regretted the interview, changed her identity, and moved to another city.
Greenlee's story inspired Barbara Gowdy's 1992 short story "We So Seldom Look On Love", which in turn inspired the 1996 Canadian independent film Kissed, directed by Lynne Stopkewich. Like Greenlee, the movie's main character was a young woman working as an embalmer fascinated with dead bodies and who engages in necrophilia. Molly Parker's portrayal of the controversial role earned her an award for "Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role" at the 18th Genie Awards. As of 1996, Greenlee was reported to be touring North America with her poetry, conferencing about necrophilia and sexual liberation.
According to Esoterra, a leading extreme culture and horror magazine of the 90s, Sally Jessy Raphael taped an interview with Karen Greenlee but refused to air it because Greenlee refused to show repentance for her actions.
Greenlee contributed a chapter to The Gospel of Filth, a book detailing the history and occult influences of extreme metal band Cradle of Filth. Greenlee's story was also the inspiration for a "raucous rock musical" entitled The Unrepentant Necrophile created by The Coldharts presented at festivals like the fourth edition of the Twin Cities Horror Festival and the 2017 Orlando Fringe Festival.