Mesa crematory in trouble over handling of bodies

May 19, 2011
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Arizona’s funeral board is moving to shut down a Mesa crematorium that a television station’s investigation found had stored dozens of bodies in unsanitary conditions in the business and others in a van outside.

The unanimous action Tuesday by the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers was spurred by findings that incorporated the results of KNXV-TV’s April investigation.

The station reported that dozens of bodies were not refrigerated inside the business because coolers were full and several others were kept overnight in a van. Maggots were observed on the floor of the crematory and on boxes containing bodies, the station reported.

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The station reported the van parked outside the business was under surveillance and that bodies inside the vehicle remained there overnight.

All State Crematory owner Franklin Lambert admitted to the findings of the board’s investigation, which had included the station’s report, said Executive Director Rodolfo Thomas.

The board’s staff was preparing a consent agreement under which Lambert and his business would lose their licenses and pay a $3,000 civil penalty, plus administrative costs, Thomas said Wednesday.

Lambert should get the proposed consent agreement by next week, and he will then have 30 days to either consent to the agreement or face formal proceedings, Thomas said.

Lambert’s attorney, Raymond Hanna, said he and his client would review the consent agreement before deciding whether Lambert would sign it. “It has all kinds of implications,” Hanna said.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Lambert said he became busy and that keeping bodies outside was a temporary solution.

Board President Katherine Shindel said Lambert’s actions were unacceptable.

“When family members entrusted their loved ones to you, they expected them to be treated with dignity and care,” she said. “They could not have imagined that you would let their loved ones rot like spoiled meat in the heat.”

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