DETROIT – Families are demanding answers Thursday after a funeral home in Detroit was shut down due to what state inspectors called "deplorable conditions."
The conditions at the Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack Avenue left inspectors shaking their heads. State officials said bodies were stored in a garage and other remains were sitting on tables.
The closure has been difficult for families who had services scheduled at the funeral home, as well as the ones who have had loved ones buried or stored improperly.
With state police standing guard, caskets were rolled out of the funeral home and bodies were removed to be loaded into hearses. All of the bodies were taken to a cleaner facility.
"This is really wrong and crazy," said Yolanda Brewer, who was at the scene looking for her sister's remains.
Brewer is one of many people who rushed to Mack Avenue.
"(I came) so I can see where they're taking my sister," Brewer said.
She watched as stacks of cremated remains were wheeled from the back door. Brewer said her sister's funeral service was held at Cantrell in January, but she couldn't afford to pay for a full burial up front.
"He said he would hold the body here in a cooler until we could pay the rest of the money," Brewer said.
She had receipts and paperwork that show she worked out a payment plan with the owner, Raymond Cantrell.
"When I talked to him, he told me, 'She's OK,'" Brewer said. "But now when I hear this, I don't know what's going on, how she looks or what. I don't know nothing."
When state inspectors went inside Cantrell, they reported finding decomposing bodies stored in an unrefrigerated garage and filthy back room. Then, a popup inspection Wednesday found 20 bodies -- seven were in caskets, three were in cremation containers and 10 were just sitting on tables, inspectors said.
Many had been decomposing there for months, the state said.
"I'm told now she wasn't in a cooler and her body might be one of the ones that's messed up," Brewer said.
"It is a shock to me," Cantrell said.
While he denies most of the violations, he admitted bodies were being stored in the garage.
"Yes, so we wouldn't have a smell filling up the funeral home," Cantrell said. "If I had them in the funeral home then my funeral home wouldn't smell fresh."
Cantrell said he was only helping grieving families.
Brewer said she's reliving the pain of losing her sister, and the owner's words didn't help at all.
"This is crazy," she said. "I've never heard of anything like this in my life. He just made me get the wrong impression from the beginning."