Funeral home closed over suspected rodent infestation

Christine Ferretti

Detroit — The state is shutting down an east-side funeral home following an investigation that turned up multiple violations ranging from a suspected rodent infestation that damaged cremains to a blood-stained box used to transport a body.

The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Wednesday suspended the license of Barksdale Funeral Home on East State Fair, and, in conjunction with the Michigan Attorney General’s office, issued a formal complaint and ordered it to “cease and desist” by the department’s Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau.

A separate complaint was issued against Barksdale’s prepaid funeral and cemetery sales registration.

According to the department, an investigation conducted last year by state inspectors and auditors found deplorable conditions and incompetence. Violations, officials said, included unsanitary embalming and preparation rooms, improper storage of hundreds of cremated remains in the funeral home and its garages, including a handful that lacked any form of identification, as well as failure to deposit more than $2,000 for several prepaid funeral contracts.

“Michigan residents trust funeral home directors, owners, and their establishments to follow the law especially when dealing with the death of a loved one,” Julia Dale, director of the state’s commercial licensing bureau said in a released statement. “We will continue to aggressively hold every funeral home in Michigan to the highest standards of public health and safety when providing final arrangements.”

The order from the state suspends the funeral home’s license as well as the individual mortuary science license of its manager, Millie L. Stewart.

Reached Wednesday, a representative for the funeral home said Stewart was unavailable and that no other employees were able to immediately speak about the suspension.

State officials said Barksdale will be allowed five business days to complete any pending services or refer its clients to another licensed facility before its suspension becomes effective on Jan. 22.

According to the complaint, an investigator visited the site in July following a tip that several hundred cremated remains were being stored in the basement. The inspection also revealed that the funeral home’s embalming room was not clean and being used for storage and a preparation room with a dirty floor, sink and countertops.

Investigators returned in August and determined 237 cremated remains were being stored inside the funeral home and its basement. Many were in poor condition and appeared to have sustained damage from water or a suspected rodent infestation, the complaint says.

Stewart was unable to provide the department with an updated list of identities for the remains or contact information for next-of-kin until Oct. 25, the complaint notes.

The facility’s license expired on Oct. 31, but another trip to Barksdale in November revealed it had continued to operate despite its lapsed license and had made “little to no progress in cleaning up the embalming room,” the complaint contends.

An audit of the funeral home’s finances revealed it also failed to deposit over $2,000 for prepaid services.

According to the state, engaging in practice without a license is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 90 days.

Additionally, converting funds paid under a prepaid contract for personal gain or who fails to escrow or trust funds according to the Prepaid Act is guilty of a felony punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to five years. Violations of other provisions of the act are misdemeanor offenses punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment.

There have been no criminal charges filed in the matter.

Members of the public who are in the process of or have used the services of Barksdale Funeral Home and have questions regarding its operation should call (517) 241-7000.