DETROIT (WJBK) - After the remains of 63 fetuses were found in a Detroit funeral home, the funeral home is explaining the actions by saying the remains had not been claimed by the parents.
Detroit police raided the Perry Funeral Home near Warren Friday night where remains of 63 fetuses have been discovered and removed. Roughly 37 of the remains were found in cardboard boxes and 26 were found in a freezer. A state oversight agency closed the funeral home.
Three days later, however, Perry Funeral Home is abuzz with workers.
Some of the remains date back to 2015. The funeral home's attorney, Joshua I. Arnkoff, released a statement the remains in the funeral home's possession had been unclaimed:
"These allegations involve only unclaimed infant remains. Perry Funeral Home received these remains from local hospitals who had indicated to Perry that the remains were "unclaimed" by the parents. In other words, the hospitals had informed Perry that the hospitals had reached out to the parents by certified mail and/ or by phone, and the families did not respond. We do not believe that any of these remains involve families that paid Perry for funeral services."
However, it's against state law to hold onto human remains for an extended period of time, according to Jason Moon with the Licensing and Regulary Affairs (LARA).
"Under Michigan law, failure to or refusal to properly supervise the final disposition of a dead human body or the failure to refusal to properly dispose of a dead human body occurs more than 180 days after the date the funeral director takes possession of the dead human body, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $50,000 or both."
How do most funeral homes deal with unclaimed fetuses? Stephen Kemp is the funeral director of Kemp Funeral home in Southfield and explains his procedure.
"My first call is typically to the medical examiner to help because I don't want them (the medical examiner) around my funeral home. The medical examiner gives us permission to cremate, typically on the funeral director's dollar and they give us authorization to do that," Kemp said.
The discovery at Perry Funeral Home came one week after 10 fetuses and one infant's remains found inside a false ceiling at Cantrell Funeral Home on the city's east side.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said there appeared to be no connection between the two funeral homes, but says the tips and allegations that fetuses have not been properly disposed of, are similar.
"We are moving forward, we have prelim discussed the need to have a task force operation to address both locations but, again, it's still very early," Craig said.
Kemp said it's the responsibility of the funeral home to care for the remains, regardless of their age.
"To me every life is important, whether they be fetuses or stillborns. To me personally they're human beings and we have a fiduciary duty, we're responsible for disposition, that's what funeral directors do," Kemp said.
Any bodies found on the premises of the establishment awaiting cremation or burial and any cremated remains found on the premises awaiting delivery to a customer were surrendered to the custody and control of LARA via its agent, Preferred Removal Services, Inc., a facility with adequate and appropriate refrigeration equipment and storage.
Members of the public who have questions or concerns regarding the operation of Perry Funeral Home may contact the Securities & Audit Division within CSCL at 517-335-5237, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, or by email at LARA-CSCL-Securities-Audit@michigan.gov.