Carl Tanzler or sometimes Count Carl von Cosel was a German-born radiologist at the United States Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida who developed an obsession for a young Cuban-American tuberculosis patient, Maria Elena Milagro "Helen" de Hoyos. Despite Tanzler's best efforts, Hoyos died of terminal tuberculosis at her parent's home in Key West on October 25, 1931. Following Hoyos' funeral, which Tanzler paid for, and with the permission of her family, Tanzler commissioned the construction of an above ground mausoleum in the Key West Cemetery that he visited almost every night.
In April, 1933, Tanzler removed Hoyos' body from the mausoleum, carted it through the cemetery after dark on a toy wagon, and transported it to his home. Tanzler attached the corpse's bones together with wire and coat hangers, and fitted the face with glass eyes. As the skin of the corpse decomposed, Tanzler replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of paris. As the hair fell out of the decomposing scalp, Tanzler fashioned a wig from Hoyos' hair that had been collected by her mother and given to Tanzler not long after her burial in 1931. Tanzler filled the corpse's abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep the original form, dressed Hoyos' remains in stockings, jewelry, and gloves, and kept the body in his bed. Tanzler also used copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents, to mask the odor and forestall the effects of the corpse's decomposition.
In October, 1940, Elena's sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with the disinterred body of her sister, and confronted Tanzler at his home, where Hoyos' body was eventually discovered. Florinda notified the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested and detained. Tanzler was psychiatrically examined, and found mentally competent to stand trial on the charge of "wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization."
Shortly after the corpse's discovery by authorities, Hoyos' body was examined by physicians and pathologists, and put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,800 people. Hoyos' body was eventually returned to the Key West Cemetery where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave, in a secret location, to prevent further tampering.