Funeral Industry News

Prison Term to Start Soon For Former Coroner

September 15, 2009

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Prison Term to Start Soon For Former Coroner

Former Massachusetts coroner Dr. Putnam Breed has been ordered by a Rockingham County Superior Court judge to begin serving a prison sentence.

Rockingham County Attorney James Reams confirmed a report by the Daily News of Newburyport, Mass., that Breed, of Hampton Falls, had been ordered by Judge Tina Nadeau to begin serving a six-month jail sentence at the Rockingham County House of Corrections. The paper reported that Breed must, under the court order, report to the jail on Sept. 21.

“A doctor’s review and approval of a cremation was designed as the last chance to catch errors. Unfortunately Dr. Breed failed in that function,” Reams wrote. “His convictions warrant a jail sentence and Judge Nadeau’s recent Order makes it clear that the Court agrees.”

Reams added he hoped the order from Nadeau would end Breed’s litigation, saying, “The victims deserve that finality.” The Daily News reported defense attorney Christopher Carter had not ruled out further action in the legal battle.

Breed’s convictions were part of a larger string of crimes at Bayview Crematorium in Seabrook, which was closed in 2005 after authorities found a body deteriorating in a broken refrigerator and urns filled with unidentified remains. The convictions hold the Hampton Falls surgeon accountable for collecting $50 for each of 1,900 cremation certificates he signed over 13 months, or a total of $95,000.

Breed was convicted of nine counts of fraudulent handling of recordable writings, three theft by deception charges and a count of theft by unauthorized taking ? all class B felonies. In July 2007, Nadeau sentenced Breed to a year in state prison with six months suspended, and ordered him to make $1,800 in restitution and pay a $4,000 fine.

In July, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed nine of the convictions for fraudulent handling of recordable writings, finding that cremation certificates are not recordable writings by state statute, and a conviction of theft by unauthorized taking, finding he did not take money from the state of Massachusetts for services he failed to perform.