This month, two unrelated Detroit funeral homes have been raided after tipsters revealed that the bodies and cremated remains of fetuses and infants have been improperly stored there, some as long as 3 years.
The idea of abusing bereaved families’ trust and the immoral treatment of the deceased in order to make money is not new. In 2009, it was discovered that Burr Oak cemetery right here in Alsip had been digging up bodies and headstones and reselling the plots to the loved ones of the newly deceased. What followed were heartbreaking searches for the bodies of loved ones who had been moved from their final resting place and demands for answers why. Levin & Perconti successfully represented several clients in lawsuits against the cemetery. What the investigation by the police and the FBI revealed was greed, pure and simple. The cemetery’s owners thought bereft loved ones wouldn’t realize years later that their family member had been moved, allowing them to reuse plots and reap the profits.
Sadly, what is happening in Detroit feels eerily similar.
Perry Funeral Home: The Remains of 63 Infants and Fetuses Found
Just last week, Detroit police found the bodies of 63 infants at Perry Funeral Home on the west side of Detroit after a civil lawsuit accused them of mishandling a body prompted them to search the facility. The lawsuit, filed in July by the mother of a stillborn infant daughter, alleges that the facility stored her daughter’s body instead of transferring her to Wayne State University Medical School for research as was requested. The mother alleges that Perry Funeral Home also falsified her daughter’s death certificate to say that she had been given a burial, a fraudulent scheme that would allow them to bill for burial services that never took place.
Authorities believe the discovery of the 63 infant remains points to a large scale scheme to defraud Medicaid. Of the 63 bodies, the remains of 37 fetuses and infants were found in 3 unrefrigerated boxes. The other 26 bodies were found in a freezer, with some labeled with a date of death as long ago as 2015. The nursing home has been shut down and police are continuing their investigation into the facility.
Cantrell Funeral Home: At least 13 Bodies & 269 Boxes of Cremated Remains Found
In April, investigators shut down Cantrell Funeral Home on the east side of Detroit and suspended their license after they removed 2 mold-covered, decomposing bodies from the funeral home’s garage. At the time, the funeral home’s owner, Raymond Cantrell II told authorities that he was doing families a favor by storing the bodies because the families couldn’t afford a proper burial.
In August of this year, a tipster called authorities and said that there were bodies stored all over the funeral home. Investigators found an infant’s body in a box.
Last week another letter came to authorities that said there were bodies hidden in the ceiling of the facility. Investigators found the bodies of 11 infants and fetuses in the exact spot described in that letter. Many have questioned why investigators were unable to find more remains at the time, but investigators described the 20,000 square foot building as having no power and being covered in trash and chemical containers.
This month, just after investigators located the 11 bodies in the ceiling, the building’s new owner was having the facility cleaned as he prepares to convert the former funeral home to a community center. His workers found the cremated remains of at least 4 more bodies and are fearful that they will find even more.
Authorities believe Cantrell Funeral Home may have been falsifying death certificates and billing for services never performed, the same scheme they believe was being run at Perry Funeral Home. The Detroit Free Press says that Raymond Cantrell II is no stranger to defrauding grieving families. In 2002 he was accused of swindling close to $100,000 from at least 3 families whose funerals he performed. He convinced families to allow him to manage the estate of the deceased and then took money. He didn’t deny the charges and told a judge that he was trying to get the money together to pay the families back.
Improper Conduct at Funeral Homes and Cemeteries
Authorities are doubtful there is a connection between the two facilities, something that indicates these cases of sickening greed are not isolated incidents. As we know from what happened at Burr Oak Cemetery right outside Chicago, abusing the deceased and cheating those who grieve them is not just happening in Detroit.
Families, if you suspect that your loved one’s remains have been mishandled by a funeral home, cemetery, hospital, or any other facility, you may not only have a criminal case, but a civil one that entitles you to sue the facility for wrongdoing. For a FREE consultation, call the personal injury attorneys of Chicago’s Levin & Perconti now: 1-877-374-1417 or, complete our free online case evaluation form.