About 30 bodies removed from suspended Arkansas mortuary

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 22, 2015 7:20 PM
About 30 bodies removed from suspended Arkansas mortuary

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Crime Laboratory officials and the Pulaski County coroner's office have removed about 30 bodies from a suburban Little Rock funeral home after its license was temporarily suspended by the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

The licenses of Arkansas Funeral Care and its manager, LeRoy Wood, were temporarily suspended Wednesday during an emergency hearing after an inspector reported finding bodies stacked atop each other in a cooler this month at the Jacksonville business, while other bodies had been left outside of the cooler to decompose.

"We'll be contacting the families and trying to find out what funeral home it is they want to go to," inspector Leslie Stokes told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1yRDhuk ). "At this point, we have not individually contacted all of the families. We'll go through all our files and contact next of kin."

The bodies were being taken to the coroner's office and the Crime Lab for holding until families were notified, the lab's executive director, Kermit Channell II, said.

"The coroner is taking photographs and making sure we have all that documentation in line, and then we'll be transporting the bodies out of here to a secure storage," Channell said.

Several white vehicles belonging to authorities, including two refrigerated trailers, were clustered around the back of the facility Wednesday evening as officials loaded the bodies. Wood was at the scene, but declined to comment to the newspaper.

Stokes said Wood had told her that business had been busier than usual in the past month.

Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors member Robert Burns said Wednesday's meeting was the result of the inspector's report following a complaint filed by a former funeral home employee. A hearing on the license suspensions is scheduled for Friday, Burns said.

Arkansas Funeral Directors Association President Jeff Smith issued a statement calling the findings "shocking and disturbing," adding that most funeral homes in the state conduct business properly.

"As with any industry, there are some bad actors but in no way should one isolated incident be a reflection on an entire industry of responsible and caring funeral directors," Smith said.

Officials were taking inventory of the bodies held by the funeral home. They were unable to provide a specific number Wednesday night, although they said it was about 30.

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com