Funeral Industry News

Memphis Funeral Home Fined for Wrong Body Case

November 29, 2010

Memphis Funeral Home Fined for Wrong Body Case

imageFines and suspensions have been levied against a Summer Avenue funeral home and a mortuary that last year cremated a man meant for burial and buried a woman meant for cremation.

The mistake and an alleged cover-up came to light earlier this year when the woman’s daughter, acting on a tip from a former funeral home employee, got a court order to dig up the grave of John G. Hughes and found the body of her mother, Billie Sue Smith.

Hughes’ body was mistakenly cremated, although his name was on the headstone of the burial plot where Smith’s body was disinterred.

The Tennessee Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers this month fined the High Point Funeral Chapel at 3788 Summer $15,000 for not properly identifying the remains of Smith and Hughes, and for allowing seven other cremations without a proper permit.

Also, the license of funeral director Herbert Shane McElveen was suspended for a year beginning in January.

Mid-South Mortuary Service at 3774 Summer, which stores bodies in a cooler before cremation by High Point, was fined $16,000 for failing to accurately identify the remains of Smith and Hughes and for failing to obtain required permits for several other cremations.

The license of the mortuary’s manager, Margie Beasley White, was suspended for six months.

The funeral service’s license to perform cremations has been suspended since March, but will be reinstated in January upon proof of establishing a proper identification system for remains.

McElveen and White agreed to the settlement with the state board, records show.

The mistake came to light when former High Point embalmer Oliver Ewing told the board that Hughes, 64, was mistakenly cremated instead of buried in June of last year.

He said the body of Smith, a 78-year-old nurse, then was stripped of all identification and buried in Hughes’ plot at Forest Hill Cemetery instead of being cremated.

“I was the one who transported the body to the cemetery,” declared Ewing, who said he was acting at that time on orders of his bosses at High Point. “The family of Billie Sue Smith has the ashes of John Hughes, and Billie Sue Smith is buried as John Hughes.”

McElveen said there was no cover-up.