Funeral Industry News

State Board Pulls License of Cemetery Owner Responsible for Field of Bones

November 17, 2010

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State Board Pulls License of Cemetery Owner Responsible for Field of Bones

imagePHOENIX ? The funeral home director who has admitted to dumping piles of human remains into sprawling pits at his Bisbee cemetery will not be running the family business anytime soon.

The Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers revoked Paul Parker’s license, after a hearing that included a tense question and answering session between Parker and several visibly upset board members.

Parker admitted to the board that he had been dumping partially cremated remains of people who donated their bodies to medical research into an open field at Memory Gardens for more than five years.

“It seemed reasonable at the time. No longer does it. And it will not continue that way as long as I’m here,” Parker told the board.

Still, board members unanimously agreed that Parker violated a number of professional codes of conduct, including the commingling of human remains, incomplete cremation of bone fragments, and not properly securing his crematory. More specific examples include Parker’s use of air trays (wooden containers used to transfer remains) to build a fence alongside his crematory and storing remains in garbage cans before dumping them in the field.

“The funeral industry is about treating with dignity and honoring those whom we serve ? the family members of those who are deceased or, in this case, the final disposition of body parts,” said President Katherine Shindel.

Board members also fined Parker $1,000 for every violation, but agreed to waive the costs if he showed compliance with state statutes within 60 days. They also required Parker to pay for administrative costs of the investigation.

“After all, these are people we’re talking about, not disarticulated parts. They’re people. I think that’s what he has to get through his head,” said board member Jim Ahearne, who wanted to revoke the license of Parker’s St. David crematory.

However, the board decided to only suspend the license of San Pedro Funeral Home & Cremation Services for 60 days and put it on probation for two years, requiring the facility to establish proper procedures to comply with state law. With the revocation of Parker’s license, the crematory would likely be taken over by Parker’s wife, whom he admitted also engaged in the same practices at the hearing.

9 On Your Side’s Claire Doan asked Shindel whether the Board did enough to ensure Parker’s wife wouldn’t continue the same practices.

“I am convinced that we have Mr. Parker’s full attention and I trust that the board staff to ensure they do not approve any procedures that are not in full compliance,” answered Shindel, who added the staff would make extra visits and surprise inspections to the facility.

The board created a task force to look into possible updates for current Arizona statutes to cover the handling of remains for those who donate their bodies to medical science.

However, some members say those new rules would be irrelevant in this case.

“You don’t need legislation or new laws to fix the things that were done here. You need a conscience,” Ahearne said.