Detroit police say the bodies of 11 babies have been found hidden in a drop ceiling of a funeral home that the state of Michigan closed six months ago for violating rules.
Authorities say construction workers found the infant corpses Friday at the Cantrell Funeral Home.
Eight were stored in a cardboard box and three were found in separate garbage bags that were stuffed into one casket, reports The Detroit News.
The Wayne County Medical Examiner took custody of the remains after the discovery at around 5.30pm.
Jameca LaJoyce Boone, who was the funeral home’s manager for a year before it was shut down and had her individual mortuary licence revoked, said she had no idea what was going on with the baby’s bodies.
‘I didn’t know anything about that,’ she told The Detroit News. ‘I really don’t know how that could even have happened. I don’t know how long that’s been going on there… it’s very unfortunate and they definitely need to find out who put them there.’
Cantrell Funeral Home is located on the city’s east side where 10400 Mack Avenue meets Garland, about 10 blocks east of the Indian Village neighbourhood.
Detroit police have ordered a search of the building to ensure there are no additional bodies inside.
Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) suspended the license of the funeral home in April after inspectors found decomposing embalmed bodies and other violations.
LARA had told the business to reassign prepaid contracts or refund the people who’s requests they could not carry out. They had had up to 90 days to wrap up the tasks depending on which route they took, reports WXYZ.
‘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,’ they said in a statement. ‘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.’
Of 20 corpses thought to have been decomposing for months when they were found earlier this year, three were in cremation containers, seven in coffins and 10 laying out on tables.
Violations also included two bodies in a garage covered in what appeared to be mould due to not being held in a proper refrigerator. A third body had unknown fluids covering the facial area.
A report from April states that the owner was being charged with ‘fraud, deceit, dishonesty, incompetence, and gross negligence in the practice of mortuary science’.
The charges are for receiving more than $21,000 in prepayments by no less than 13 people who had signed agreements for future funeral services, but failing to register for a new license to do so, reports Freep.com.
They also included having unclean embalming rooms.
He may be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of ‘$5,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both,’ according to the LARA website.
Fox2 reported that Raymond Cantrell took over the half-a-century-old funeral home in 2017. He said he only held the bodies because some people were unable to pay for a proper burial.
‘If I had them in the funeral home then my funeral home wouldn’t smell fresh,’ he previously said. ‘So yes they are embalmed and serviced we put them in the garage.’
It’s not clear if loved ones of the deceased were aware of the exact conditions but he added that people knew the bodies were still in his care.
Others who could afford to bury and cremate their loved ones were not, however.
Cantrell also mentioned he was trying to contact people who had ashes to collect but was not able to get in touch with everyone.
‘Flat out disgusted, I can only tell them the truth,’ Cantrell said in April about customers who were unaware.
‘Those who have asked me to hold their loved ones will know I was doing them a favour to accommodate them. For those that weren’t, like the many of the cremated they are trying to take from here or that they are taking from here. Those individuals we called we’ve tried to notify and they haven’t been picked up.’