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Judge dismisses body disposal charge against Washtenaw County crematory owner

The investigation into Tri-County Cremation Services, L.L.C. started after LARA an anonymous complaint. (WDIV)

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – A judge has dismissed a charge of improperly disposing of a body that was filed against the owner of a crematory in southeastern Michigan.

State prosecutors didn’t have the evidence to support the charge against O’Neil Swanson, Washtenaw County District Judge J. Cedric Simpson ruled Monday. Swanson faced up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine if he was convicted of the felony.

The body was dropped off in March 2019 at Tri-County Cremation Services in Ypsilanti Township — more than a year before the limited liability corporation Swanson was a part of bought the facility, Swanson said Thursday.

Previous coverage: Owner of Ypsilanti crematory charged with improper disposal of bodies

Swanson, who pleaded no contest to two felonies in 2019 in connection to a funeral home he operated in the Flint area, said he has been targeted by Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and that the agency had been made aware of how long the body had been at the crematory.

“The state cannot allow conditions to exist for the creation of a crime,” Simpson said. “LARA let this linger on and on and on until ... all of a sudden there was somebody who was in front of them who they may not like.”

The Associated Press left messages Thursday seeking comment from the state licensing agency. The Michigan’s attorney general’s office said in an email that it was reviewing its options.

A cease-and-desist order was issued in June for the crematory, which is still closed. Authorities had said they began investigating the company after the state received an anonymous complaint of heavy smoke issuing from the chimney, bodies stored improperly while awaiting cremation, and bodily fluids leaking onto the facility’s floor.

The body belonged to a woman who died in 2018. The crematory's then-general manager notified LARA that the body had been dropped off in March 2019 by a funeral home that didn’t include the proper paperwork allowing the facility to dispose of it, Swanson said Thursday.

Swanson said the “previous owner couldn’t do anything” with the body. The state “had an opportunity to do something about this before I was involved," he said. “I was wrongfully accused. The facts never would have supported a conviction. This was an extremely embarrassing moment for me and my entire family.”

Swanson’s Swanson Funeral Home in Flint was closed in 2017 after maggots were found in a garage where unrefrigerated bodies were being stored. Officials later determined prepaid funeral contracts were sold without a proper license. His mortuary science and mortuary science establishment licenses were revoked.