LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The company that owns an Arkansas funeral home where bodies were found stacked on top of each other in unrefrigerated areas pleaded guilty Friday after felony charges were dropped against the father and son who own the business.
Arkansas Funeral Care pleaded guilty in Pulaski County Circuit Court to five felony counts of abuse of a corpse after 13 abuse of corpse charges were dismissed against LeRoy Wood and Rod Wood. The plea agreement finalized days before a trial scheduled for Monday also dropped eight corpse abuse charges against the Jacksonville funeral home.
The company faces up to $100,000 in fines during a sentencing hearing scheduled for May 19.
LeRoy Wood's attorney, Dustin McDaniel, said "none of it was on purpose" and his client "hopes the families of the loved ones who were involved in this know how deeply sad he is that any of this had happened."
"We are at the same time deeply gratified that the state has dropped the charges against them individually," McDaniel said.
The funeral home's license was suspended last year after the state licensing agency investigated complaints by a former employee and found a cooler "filled beyond capacity with bodies" and bodies "stacked on top of each other." Investigators removed 31 bodies and 22 cremated remains from the business.
Wood submitted a statement to the court saying he had been ill the week before the investigators came, and when he returned to work he recognized the home "had a serious problem." Wood described the actions he took, including increasing crematorium shifts, personally handling some body preparation, calling three other funeral homes for help, and turning off all heat in the preparation area. Wood told the court he should have called the Arkansas State Crime Lab to help with extra storage of the bodies and should have stopped accepting new clients immediately.
Former funeral home director Edward Snow has pleaded not guilty to 13 felony counts of corpse abuse. Snow's attorneys are challenging the evidence gathered, including investigators' interviews with Snow, and the constitutionality of the abuse of a corpse statute.