Funeral Industry News

SCI Funeral Director Charged With Corpse Abuse

October 7, 2009

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SCI Funeral Director Charged With Corpse Abuse

HOUSTON (KTRK) — A former funeral director is accused of a deeply disturbing crime. The district attorney says authorities uncovered shocking photos of him and a dead body.

While the pictures were allegedly taken several years before James Patton started working at Earthman Funeral Home, this latest incident of alleged corpse abuse may have happened as recently as September 2008. Today a spokesperson with Houston-based SCI, the company that owns Earthman, says when authorities first alerted them of the disturbing allegations, Patton was immediately removed from his position and the company.

Patton, 38, is charged with abuse of a corpse. The former funeral director at Earthman’s Hunter Creek chapel is accused of treating a human corpse in an offensive manner.

No one answered at Patton’s Montrose area apartment Monday afternoon. An unidentified woman who arrived while Eyewitness News was there had no comment.

Back in April, police seized Patton’s computer from his apartment during an unrelated investigation, when they discovered a series of disturbing pictures, 27 in all.

“HPD sent the images to the FBI forensics laboratory for examination,” explained Donna Hawkins with the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

According to court documents, it was determined that the images were taken in November 2004, before Patton worked for Earthman. However, last month when police showed Patton the offensive pictures recovered from his computer, the investigator asked, ‘When was the last time you did this?’

Patton responded, ‘A year ago,’ which would have been on or about September 2008, while Patton was employed as the funeral director at Earthman.

A spokesperson for SCI says she is not aware of any other incidents, and released the following statement:

“These allegations are deeply disturbing. They are contrary to everything the entire funeral profession stands for. The vast majority of people in the funeral industry are people with the utmost integrity. They are caring, compassionate professionals who daily help families through extremely difficult times.”

SCI says it will continue to cooperate with authorities. Abuse of a corpse is a class A misdemeanor. If Patton is convicted, he could spend up to a year in jail and could face up to a $4,000 fine.

Source: Houston ABC Affiliate KTRK