Cremated remains found in drug suspect's car

AP News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2014 9:13 PM

LOUISIANA, Mo. (AP) — A former Colorado funeral home worker tasked with spreading cremated ashes in the Rocky Mountains instead kept four people's remains in the trunk of his car for several years, police said.

A Pike County sheriff's deputy found the ashes in four plastic boxes after police in the northeast Missouri town of Louisiana arrested James Robert Lee II, 39, on methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia charges.

Lee went to Louisiana City Hall on Sept. 23 and told officers his GPS system indicated he was being followed. He was arrested at his parents' home after again calling police. Bob Jenne, the town's police chief, said Lee was behaving erratically, had dilated pupils and repeatedly scratched himself — all signs of meth use.

Online court records didn't list an attorney for Lee, who remained jailed Tuesday on a $10,000 cash-only bond and was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on an arraignment.

The remains authorities found were individually identified and labeled from the Callahan-Edfast Mortuary in Grand Junction, Colorado. The cremation dates ranged from 2005 to 2008. Jenne said Lee worked at the funeral home until April, when he returned to Missouri.

However, the owner of the mortuary, Rick Allnutt, told the Associated Press that Lee no longer worked for the funeral home when he bought the business in December 2011. He said he didn't know when Lee left the company.

"Our main concern is for the families connected with this man's actions," Allnutt said.

Gary Blackburn, the funeral home's general manager, said the mortuary is seeking the return of the remains to properly honor the wishes of the deceased.

The Louisiana Press-Journal first reported Lee's arrest.

Jenne said he contacted Grand Junction police and the FBI's regional office in St. Louis, but doesn't expect Lee to face criminal charges related to the human remains.

Steffani Blackstock, executive director of the Colorado Funeral Directors Association, said the state is one of the few that doesn't license individual funeral home directors or morticians. So any penalty over the mishandled remains would be assessed against Lee's former employer rather than him directly, she said.