Funeral home owner pleads no contest for decaying bodies

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2015 4:32 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A funeral home owner pleaded no contest to abuse-of-corpse charges on Monday, five months after 11 bodies intended for cremation, some in a state of decay in a damp garage, were found by authorities.

Robert Tate Jr. also agreed to give up his director's license and to never again work for a funeral home.

Tate entered the no-contest pleas to one felony and three misdemeanor counts of the same charge. He also agreed to pay restitution to two families because he kept the remains of two people in an area without air conditioning or refrigeration, said Frank Spryszak, a Lucas County assistant prosecutor.

Tate is scheduled to be sentenced next month, but prosecutors are not expected to recommend prison time.

"Everyone that I communicated with in this case, including the investigating officers, were comfortable with this resolution," Spryszak said.

Tate's attorney said previously that any delays in cremation resulted from physicians failing to provide death certificates in a timely manner and that embalming was done in accordance with state law. There was no answer at the attorney's office on Monday afternoon.

In late May, authorities removed the 11 bodies, including 10 adults and a premature infant, most of which were stored in cremation boxes and body bags. At least one had been there about four months, officials said.

Ohio's Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors suspended Tate's license within days. The board said the funeral home director had treated 10 of the bodies in a way that would outrage reasonable family and community sensibilities and that two of the bodies were held for more than two days without embalming or refrigeration.

A state inspector went to the funeral home after a relative said the cremation of her uncle's body was taking too long.

At least four lawsuits have been filed against Tate. One family said they noticed during a funeral in May 26 for Thomas Gaston that his body looked bloated and there was a strong odor near the casket.

Marcie Barringer, of Toledo, said the body of her mother, Betty Green, was among those found at the funeral home. She said she called Tate several times asking when her mother would be cremated but never got a response.

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Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.