Funeral Industry News

Former Funeral Director Charged For Rotting Bodies

September 28, 2009

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Former Funeral Director Charged For Rotting Bodies

image COLUMBIA, Mo.: A former Missouri funeral home director accused of keeping rotting bodies in a basement faces three felony counts of unlawful merchandising practices.

The indictment that Boone County grand jurors returned Friday stems from allegations that Harold Warren Sr. knowingly gave families cremated remains that were not the ashes of their loved ones. Prosecutors allege the crimes occurred between February and July 2008.

Warren’s attorney, Dan Viets, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that his client will respond to the charges in court.

“It’s not a surprise to us,” Viets said. “We’ve been working with (prosecutors) and, of course, trying to persuade them not to” file charges, he added. “But they chose to pursue it, so we’ll deal with it.”

The 77-year-old Warren and his son, Harold Warren Jr., operated Warren Funeral Chapel Inc., which had funeral homes in Fulton and Columbia.

State officials ordered the business to close in July 2008 after a woman’s body was found stored in an electrical room for 10 months without being embalmed or refrigerated. Investigators later found several more decaying bodies.

In July 2009, the Missouri Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors revoked the men’s licenses to practice as funeral directors and embalmers. The elder Warren continues to work at the Columbia funeral home. Its new owner, Reid Millard, hired Warren as a “funeral assistant” to perform physical labor.

One of the mishandled cases was the funeral of Tasha Loggins, a 25-year-old who died May 23, 2008. Her mother, Vanae Scott, paid Warren in full for the funeral, and a couple of weeks later he gave her an urn containing ashes he claimed to be those of her daughter.

She kept the ashes in a cherished place in her home until her daughter’s body was among several found unrefrigerated in the basement of the Warren chapel.

“It was devastating,” Scott recalled Friday. “For three months I had someone else’s ashes.”