DETROIT (AP) — Police removed the remains of 63 fetuses from a Detroit funeral home and regulators shuttered the business amid a widening investigation of alleged improprieties at local funeral homes.
Detroit police Chief James Craig said officers found 36 fetuses in boxes and 27 others in freezers during Friday’s raid at the Perry Funeral Home. He said he was “stunned” by the discovery, which came a week after the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were discovered in a ceiling at Detroit’s defunct Cantrell Funeral Home. Those remains were found after state regulators in Lansing received an anonymous letter.
Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said the remains found at the Perry Funeral Home were turned over to state investigators, who immediately declared the funeral home closed and its license suspended.
Inspectors for the State of Michigan’s Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau said in a statement that they had found “heinous conditions and negligent conduct” at the Perry Funeral Home, including numerous failures to certify death certificates and obtain proper permits for burial.
The agency’s statement said Friday’s findings point clearly toward criminal offenses of state laws regulating funeral homes that could be felonies “punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $50,000 or both.”
Craig said the investigation into the Perry Funeral Home began after a man who has sued that business over its handling of remains of infants and fetuses saw coverage of the discoveries at the Cantrell Funeral Home and told his attorney to contact police.
That lawsuit, filed in July, alleges that the Perry Funeral Home stored the remains of stillborn and live birth babies in the Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science morgue for up to three years without trying to notify parents, some of whom wanted to donate the bodies for medical research. It also alleges the funeral home may have fraudulently billed Medicaid, as well as the Detroit Medical Center, for burials it never performed.
The attorneys in that suit, Peter J. Parks and Daniel W. Cieslak, said they believe many more infants’ remains may be found in the improper possession of the Perry Funeral Home, perhaps as many as 200, based on research of log books kept by the Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science.
“I’m really wondering where all the rest of them are,” Cieslak said Friday.
Craig said that law enforcement agencies were considering forming a task force to target improper storage of remains and fraud in the area.
As part of investigators’ widening probe, Detroit police also raided another funeral home, the Q A Cantrell Funeral Home in suburban Detroit’s Eastpointe, along with a home in Grosse Pointe Woods.
The recent discovery of the 10 fetuses and one infant at the Cantrell Funeral Home came after state inspectors in April shuttered that business after finding 21 improperly stored bodies, some of them covered in mold, in the facility.
Since April, 38 unattended bodies and 269 containers of cremated remains have been discovered in the facility.