Perry Funeral Home investigation: State moves to revoke license citing long list of violations

63 infant, fetal remains found at Detroit funeral home

Fetal and infant remains were found inside the Perry Funeral Home in October 2018 in Detroit. (WDIV)

DETROIT - The state of Michigan is working to revoke Perry Funeral Home's mortuary license after regulators found violations at the Detroit business including the storage of 63 infant and fetal remains.

The violations at Perry were discovered in October during a Detroit police investigation into Cantrell Funeral Home, where the bodies of 11 infants were found Oct. 12 in a hidden ceiling compartment and four more bodies were later found in the basement.

At Perry, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) said regulators found a list of violations including:

  • Of the 63 infant and fetal remains found on their premises that day, possessing 54 of those remains without having express authorization to do so by a relative of the deceased or a person entitled to custody.
  • 39 of the remains arrived at the funeral home more than 180 days before and seven of the remains arrived at the facility more than 60 days before the Oct. 19, 2018 inspection, in violation of the Michigan Penal Code.
  • Representing on 42 death certificates that it filed with the Dept. of Health and Human Services that the body was buried at Knollwood Cemetery in Canton, or stored at Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit, when Perry knew that the bodies were all stored in cardboard boxes or a freezer in the basement of its facility in Detroit.
  • Failing to certify and file death certificates for the dead bodies of the fetuses and infants for whom they assumed custody with the appropriate governmental authority within 72 hours of death. Death certificates were not filed for over a year, and in some cases over three years.
  • Storing the bodies of deceased infant and fetal remains in a disrespectful and callous manner in the basement of its facility.
  • Using a casket that had previously been used in connection with the burial or other disposition of a dead human body.
  • Obtaining State Emergency Relief (SER) benefits for the purpose of supervising the final disposition of at least three deceased infants and fetuses and failing to achieve their final disposition.
  • Making a charge for services in connection with the disposal of deceased infant or fetal remains that it received from a hospital where the hospital did not comply state law by first inquiring as to the desires of the person with authority over the disposal of the remains under the Estates and Protected Individual’s Code.
  • A lack of good moral character.
  • Gross negligence and incompetence in the practice of mortuary science.
  • Practicing fraud, deceit, or dishonesty in the practice of mortuary science.

The Perry Funeral Home issued a statement in response to LARA's findings. 

“We received the complaint and are reviewing the allegations against Perry Funeral Home.  We are confident that our response to the allegations will establish that Perry complied with all applicable laws to the very best of their abilities and that a full analysis of those allegations will show that any issues or problems lie within the system to receive authorization to bury and/or cremate unclaimed bodies, and are not attributable to Perry.  On the contrary, Perry Funeral Home acted at all times to provide respectful services and show dignity to the remains of those unclaimed individuals that came into their care,” the statment read. 

LARA Director Orlene Hawks said the agency found numerous acts of gross negligence, incompetence, fraud and deceit in the practice of mortuary science.  "We will continue to enforce state laws to protect our residents from bad actors who deceive the public and also tarnish the funeral home industry as a whole," said Hawks.

LARA has issued a formal complaint against Perry and the home's designated manager, Gary Deak.

LARA issued this statement Friday:

"LARA will use this Formal Complaint and its findings to seek license revocations. In response to the Formal Complaint, each respondent has the opportunity to participate in a compliance conference with the Department to either demonstrate compliance with the law or voluntarily engage in settlement negotiations. If no response is received to the Formal Complaint, or if the respondents request to proceed directly to an administrative hearing, one will be scheduled. With respect to the respondents’ mortuary science licenses, the Board of Examiners in Mortuary Science determines the appropriate penalties upon review of a Hearing Report finding violations of the administrative law. LARA’s goal in taking the present actions is to ensure that this home and individual are never licensed in the funeral home industry again."

In December, Detroit police removed 44 mishandled infant and fetal remains from cemeteries in Detroit and Canton Township as part of the ongoing investigation into Perry Funeral Home.

Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit

Detroit police Chief James Craig said the department received a tip that between 100 and 125 mishandled remains were at Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit. Police discovered the remains in a crypt on the grounds of the cemetery while executing a search warrant.

The cemetery is not considered at fault and management was cooperative, officials said.

Of the fetuses found, police said 17 were in violation of the required documentation and out of burial compliance.

Knollwood Cemetery in Canton Township

There was also a search at Knollwood Cemetery in Canton Township, led by state officials from LARA. Police said the searches were done concurrently.

Inspectors found 345 fetuses and one adult at Knollwood Cemetery, police said. There were 27 violations due to improper burials.

All of the improperly handled remains were fetuses, officials said.

LARA announced in December that it shut down Knollwood Cemetery due to the improper storing of remains.

Cremated remains found at former Howell Funeral Home

Earlier this month, police said what appears to be several sets of cremated remains were found inside an abandoned funeral home on Dexter Avenue near Fenkell Avenue.

"We are reviewing this matter and will open a consumer complaint to begin an investigation," said Jason Moon, with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

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