DETROIT – Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have set up a task force to investigate the mishandling of infant remains by at least two Metro Detroit funeral homes, according to authorities.
Sources told Local 4 that investigators are going back into Cantrell Funeral Home and Perry Funeral Home on Detroit's west side, and police raided the Cantrell Funeral Home in Eastpointe.
The announcement comes after the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were found Oct. 12 hidden inside the ceiling at the building where the Cantrell Funeral Home once operated in Detroit. The cremains of four other people were found this week at the same building.
Cantrell will be the first focus of the task force, though state inspectors didn't treat the building as a crime scene when the cremated remains were found.
The new building owner said he doesn't believe the basement was searched, and state officials said workers renovating the building might be the ones who find more remains.
State inspectors revealed this week they were first alerted there could be remains inside the closed business 45 days ago, but despite that tip, the building was never thoroughly searched.
Cantrell Funeral Home was under the state microscope in April when its license was suspended for mishandling bodies. In August, a tipster told the state they would find more remains in the building. Last week, a tip directed inspectors to exactly where those bodies were hidden.
Detroit police launch criminal investigation
Craig's department launched a criminal investigation into the Cantrell Funeral Home earlier this week.
"In my 41 and 1/2 years, I have never heard of such a case," said Craig.
Those were powerful words from Detroit’s top cop on what he called a very unique case.
"I did have a conversation with the attorney general's office and the prosecution office about our intent to pursue a criminal case," said Craig.
LARA releases timeline of their inspection
A timeline from the state of Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) details the investigation into the Cantrell Funeral home. It dates back to Oct. 11, 1985 when the funeral home obtained its license:
- 10/11/85 or earlier: Raymond E. Cantrell Sr. obtained mortuary science LN 4501-004306, and Cantrell Funeral Home obtained mortuary science establishment LN 4502-000604. License history, status, and disciplinary history may be searched atwww.mi.gov/licenselookup.
- 11/20/85: Raymond Emanuel Cantrell, II obtained mortuary science LN 4501-006254, which expired due to nonrenewal on 10/31/03.
- 1/30/87: “Cantrell Funeral Home, Incorporated” incorporated as a domestic profit corporation in Michigan. See www.mi.gov/corpentitysearch.
- 7/15/87: Cantrell Funeral Home, Inc. obtained its registration no. 3401-000033 under the Prepaid Funeral and Cemetery Sales Act.
- 8/28/87 to 2/15/17: Raymond E. Cantrell, Sr., LN 4501-004306, was the designated manager of Cantrell Funeral Home, Inc. His obituary: https://www.qacantrellfunerals.com/notices/Raymond-Cantrell.
- 10/13/95: Jameca Lajoyce Boone obtained mortuary science LN 4501-006945
- 2/16/17 to 4/25/18: Jameca Lajoyce Boone, LN 4501-006945, designated manager of Cantrell Funeral Home, Inc., until her license was summarily suspended.
- 9/30/17: Cantrell Funeral Home, Inc.’s registration under the Prepaid Act lapsed due to nonrenewal.
- 11/29/17: CSCL investigators appeared on-site at the Cantrell Funeral Home to conduct a complaint-related inspection and were denied access by Raymond Cantrell, II.
- 12/20/17: CSCL investigator returned to the funeral home and was permitted to conduct an inspection. The paint on embalming room walls was peeling and there was large water stain on the back wall.
- 2/14/18: CSCL investigator re-inspected the funeral home and determined that the embalming room still had peeling and chipping paint, its floor was dirty, there were stains on the walls, and stained protective gear hung up in the room.
- 4/10/18: CSCL again inspected the funeral home. During this visit, investigators found two embalmed bodies in caskets in the garage of the facility. Mr. Cantrell indicated that the funeral home was delaying final disposition of the two bodies while it awaited payment in full. The bodies had been at the funeral home since November and December 2017. A third body had been in its possession from 1/9/18 through 4/17/18, because the decedent’s next-of-kin was waiting for an insurance policy to release necessary funds. The body was eventually cremated, because the released funds were not enough to pay for a burial.
- 4/25/18: Cantrell Funeral Home, Inc.’s mortuary science license and prepaid registration was summarily suspended along with its manager, Jameca Boone’s, mortuary science license based on incompetence and gross negligence, improperly stored bodies, poor conditions in the embalming room, and prepaid funeral contract funds not placed in escrow, constituting fraud, deceit, or dishonesty and incompetence. The funeral home was inspected and there was a discovery of more than 20 bodies awaiting final disposition. Two of the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition and covered in mold. One of those bodies was there since February 2018 awaiting payment from an insurance policy. The second body belonged to a family member and was there since January 2018 awaiting funds being raised to conduct an autopsy. There were also 269containers of cremated remains in the basement. Of the cremated remains 52 of them were unidentifiable and four have since been retrieved by families. The remaining cremains are in the possession of Preferred Removal Services located in Flint, Michigan and are available to the next of kin. A March audit also revealed that the funeral home failed to deposit $21,574.40 received for prepaid funeral goods or services related to 13 contracts. Its Prepaid Act registration also lapsed on 9/30/17, and it failed to reassign its prepaid contracts or refund the funds to the customers. Complaint Nos. 335471, 331451, 335561, 335562, & 335762.
- 8/28/18: An anonymous caller reported that corpses were hidden throughout Cantrell Funeral Home, Inc.
- 8/29/18: Following consultation with the Department of Attorney General, CSCL inspection yielded the discovery of a stillborn corpse in a box atop a table that was not present during the April 2018 inspection together with one set cremated remains. Paperwork, including the death certificate, were located within the establishment. CSCL was able to reunite the mother of the stillborn with the remains and arrange for final disposition for the stillborn with the assistance of Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.
- 10/12/18: Statement of complaint arrived via U.S. Mail to CSCL. It gave explicit instructions as to how to locate the infant corpses within the building. Mr. Naveed Syed, building owner, provided access to CSCL Bureau Director, Julia Dale, as well as the CSCL Manager of Inspections & Investigations into the vacant building at approximately 4:45PM. The building was without power. CSCL Bureau Director Dale and the Manager discovered a cardboard box and an infant sized casket in a small space located between the ceiling of the first floor and the floor the second. Both the box and the casket were hidden by insulation and the space within which they were hidden was no more than a couple of feet high. Once it was confirmed that there were remains in the box and casket, Dale contacted the Detroit Police Department. Initially patrol officers arrived on scene, followed by representatives from the DPD Homicide Task Force, the DPD Crime Scene Unit, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Michigan State Police and others. Over the course of the evening the bodies of 11 infants total ranging from early gestation to a couple of months old were identified. A cadaver dog swept the facility and located no additional bodies. CSCL worked with industry representatives and have secured final disposition of the infants with the Mt. Olivet Cemetery once the infants and next of kin are identified.
- 10/15/18: Current building owner Naveed Syed contacted CSCL Bureau Director Dale and indicated that his employees were cleaning the basement of the facility and located one container of human cremains. Arrangements were made with the Chas. Verheyden Funeral Home to take possession of the cremains.
- 10/16/18: CSCL Bureau Dale and her staff met with Detectives and the LT. from the Detroit Homicide Task Force to discuss the parallel Administrative and Criminal Investigations. CSCL Bureau Director advised DPD of Mr. Syed’s report of cremains.
- 10/16/18: Current building owner Naveed Syed contacted CSCL Bureau Director Dale and left a voice message after hours, indicating that his employees had located another container of human cremains while cleaning the facility. Arrangements were made with Chas. Verheyden Funeral to take possession of the cremains.
- 10/17/18: Current building owner Naveed Syed contacted CSCL Bureau Director Dale and left a voice message, indicating that his employees had located another container or two of human cremains. Verhyden Funeral Home contacted CSCL to advise that amid demolition additional cremains were found and Mr. Syed had contacted him. Arrangements were made with Chas. Verheyden Funeral to take possession of the cremains. CSCL Director while at DPS headquarters advised DPD and Wayne County Prosecutors staff of the discovery.