The Case Involving 63 Fetus Remains is a Legal, Logistical, and Psychological Nightmare
Recently, Detroit has been in the news for disturbing practices related to funeral service. On October 12th police discovered the remains of 11 infants or fetuses that were never cremated in The Cantrell Funeral Home – some were hidden in the ceiling. On October 19th, yet another Detroit funeral home, Perry Funeral Home, was found to have 63 infants or fetuses in boxes… never cremated.
COVER PHOTO: John T. Greilick/Detroit News via AP)
In the Perry Funeral Home case, state authorities reported removing 37 remains from boxes, and 26 remains from a freezer. An email statement from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs stated that the Perry Funeral Home may have committed several criminal violations for failing to properly dispose of bodies according to state law. Due to the findings, the business has had its license suspended.
“No Criminal Offense Was Made”
The lawyer representing Perry Funeral Home, Joshua I. Arnkoff, stated that no criminal offense was made. The remains found were those unclaimed by parents, and the funeral home had no legal authority to dispose of the body (such as with burial or cremation).
The discovery of the 63 remains by law enforcement was prompted by a lawsuit filed in July by a mother whose daughter died shortly after she was born in the hospital in December of 2014. The mother released the body to Wayne State University Medical School for educational purposes. However, the remains of the little girl ended up at Perry Funeral Home. The suite revolves around a certificate of death for the infant that states that the remains had been buried in a cemetery when they were actually still in the mortuary.
The lawyer for the mother, Peter J Parks, stated: “We’ve got multiple layers of potentially criminal activity by Perry Funeral Home, lack of supervision on the part of the mortuary science program and gross negligence on the part of the hospital.”
Arnkoff, lawyer for the funeral home, told the New York Times, “Perry Funeral Home received these remains from local hospitals who had indicated to Perry that the remains were ‘unclaimed’ by the parents. In other words, the hospitals had informed Perry that the hospitals had reached out to the parents by certified mail and/or by phone, and the families did not respond. We do not believe that any of these remains involve families that paid Perry for funeral services.”
Many Unanswered Questions
Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department said that as of now the Perry Funeral Home and Cantrell Funeral Home cases do not seem to be connected. Officials are contemplating a task force to investigate how human remains are stored and documented in the area, as Craig stated, “This is larger than we might know.”
Chief Craig has described the situation as “very, very disturbing,”
While these legal, ethical and logistical questions remain unanswered, many parents who have used the services of the Cantrell and the Perry funeral homes are having to grieve all over again. Tyesha Dukes worked with Perry Funeral Home when her child died and now she is worried.
“I had called just to see,” Dukes said. “If it’s baby bodies at this funeral home, let me call and see if my baby, you know, (is) buried or not.”
This is a sentiment that many Michigan parents are facing as this tragic and disturbing news comes to light. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Kenneth Wolf, stated:
“An incredible betrayal of trust, which not only reinforces the sadness and grief of losing one’s child, but now the outrage. When children die, when fetuses die, there is a multiplicity of losses. Now you don’t even know if you were saying goodbye to the right person.”
The investigation is ongoing, and more details are bound to be released as the investigators discover just what has happened at these two funeral homes in Detroit.