DETROIT – The bodies of 11 babies were found in the ceiling of a former Detroit funeral home on Friday night after investigators received an anonymous tip.
The bodies were found in a hidden compartment located in the ceiling of the building. Nine bodies were found in a cardboard box, two were found in caskets -- all in a hidden section of the ceiling.
There are many unanswered questions surrounding the discovery, including:
- Who hid the bodies in the ceiling?
- Who wrote the anonymous letter?
- Who knew about the bodies and why did it take so long for them to be found?
- Are there possible charges former funeral home owners could face?
- Where are the families that these infants belonged to?
While the information and facts come to light, we'll keep you updated. There are some things we do know already.
On Sunday the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office provided the latest update in the case.
Many families who used the Cantrell Funeral Home for burial services are now concerned their loved ones could be victims of its neglect.
Funeral home was shut down for 'deplorable conditions' in April
State inspectors shut down the Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack Avenue in April after the discovery of several violations including decomposing remains and "deplorable conditions."
LARA suspended the mortuary science establishment license after state inspectors reported finding decomposing bodies stored in an unrefrigerated garage and a filthy back room.
During a popup inspection during that time frame inspectors found 20 bodies, seven were in caskets, three were in cremation containers, and 10 were just lying on tables. According to inspectors many of the bodies had been decomposing for months.
Anonymous letter tipped off LARA investigators
Detroit police said Friday night that investigators received an anonymous letter Friday afternoon that lead them to the gruesome discovery. The letter described the infant bodies and the location of the bodies.
It's unclear what the letter said, but police suggested it had to be authored by a former employee who knew where the bodies were.
"You wouldn't just guess this," Detroit police lieutenant James Demps said.
Investigators found the bodies and immediately called police. Authorities removed the infants from the building and sent them to the Medical Examiner's office to be identified.
"Some of the bodies had a tag on referring back to 2009, some had receipts on them as if the person or family didn't finish paying," Demps said.
Watch the full police briefing below:
Former funeral home owner responds
Raymond Cantrell, the former owner of the funeral home, spoke to Local 4 on the phone.
"I didn't go and try to discover things. I was trying to go handling things at hand," Cantrell said.
Cantrell said he did not order his employees to hide bodies.
"On behalf of my family I'm really sorry that it happened and totally appalled. The fact it occurred. I'm just thanking God it wasn't something I had any involvement in," he said.
Detroit police detectives want to talk to Cantrell. He now lives out of state but said he's willing to speak to police if they call him.
Watch Jermont Terry's report from the scene Friday night
LARA releases statement on discovery
Jason Moon, the Communications Director with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) released the following statement:
“Based on a new complaint, LARA investigators today searched Cantrell Funeral Home and found the decomposing bodies of 11 infants. We then immediately contacted local authorities.
In April, LARA suspended the mortuary licenses of both the home and its manager Jameca LaJoyce Boone for many violations including the improper storage of decomposing bodies of adult and infants. That suspension order remains in effect as does our investigation. We will use the evidence gathered today to add to our open investigation and will continue to work with local law enforcement as this case proceeds.”