New remains found in Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit

Sarah Rahal George Hunter
The Detroit News
The small casket where some of the remains of the 11 infants were found  hidden in a ceiling compartment were still inside the former Cantrell Funeral Home on Saturday.

Detroit — The remains of four cremated bodies were discovered this week at a Detroit funeral home where 11 infants, 10 of them fetuses, were found Friday.

The most recent discovery brings the total number of unattended remains found in the Cantrell Funeral Home on Detroit's east side to 38.

Over the past three days, four cremated bodies were found in the basement of the shuttered funeral home at 10400 Mack Ave., said Naveed Syed, the building's owner.

“My construction workers found the remains in the basement,” said Syed, CEO of Quality Behavioral Health Services, a nonprofit addiction treatment and counseling center. “They were all in individual containers with the person’s name on the container.”

Jason Moon, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, said the latest remains have been transported to Verheyden Funeral Home in Eastpointe.

“As of (Wednesday), the current owner of the building has notified LARA that during ongoing construction, four cremated remains have been found," Moon said.

Syed said the remains of one body were found on Monday; another was discovered Tuesday; and two more were uncovered Wednesday while workers were clearing out the basement.

Syed added he didn’t get a good look at all of the ashes before he called LARA, but he said one of the containers dated back to 1996.

“We’re still in the process of cleaning the place and haven’t even been to the basement before,” he said. “The state regulator came to collect the remains. Police weren’t involved." 

State inspectors, accompanied by Detroit police officers, last week found the 11 infants' bodies hidden above a false ceiling.

The remains were stashed in a closet crawl space hidden between the first and second floors. Nine bodies were in a cardboard box, and two were in a small white casket, individually wrapped. Some were embalmed and others mummified. 

“(Cadaver) dogs came in Friday, but they didn’t find the any of the remains," Syed said. "We’ve decided to now do a demolition of the property. We’ve taken out more than four Dumpsters full of stuff, and God knows what else we're going to find.”

Meanwhile, LARA has launched an investigation into Q A Cantrell Funeral Home in Eastpointe, Moon said.

"Based on a new complaint, LARA conducted an on-site inspection of Q A Cantrell Funeral Home Tuesday, and now we have an open investigation," Moon said. He added because of the ongoing probe, he couldn't say what possible violations were being investigated, or what was alleged in the new complaint.

Arnold Reed, attorney for Q A Cantrell Funeral Home, said Wednesday his client's business is not affiliated with the Detroit funeral home.

The Michigan Department of Licencing and Regulatory Affairs has launched an investigation into Q A Cantrell Funeral Home in Eastpointe.

Reed said the only problems found during Tuesday's inspection in Eastpointe were an unpainted portion of a door, and a "ring in the sink that they said needed to be removed."

"Somebody from one of the competitor funeral homes, I won't mention their name, had someone write a letter of complaint (to LARA)," Reed said Wednesday. "When (state inspectors) came in (Tuesday) morning, they went through the entire building tooth and comb, and they said to paint the door, and get rid of the ring in the sink. That was all they found.

"So there was absolutely nothing untoward found," Reed said. "It's my understanding that they're looking at the books, which they did during an inspection four months ago, and they found nothing wrong then. We expect since they found nothing wrong four months ago, they should find the same thing now."

Detroit police on Monday launched a criminal investigation into the Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit. Wayne County Medical Examiner's employees are working to identify the 11 infant bodies, which they said could take months

Wayne County chief medical examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt told The Detroit News most of the remains have labels from hospitals that could match hospital or funeral home records, although he said some of the mummified remains could be difficult to identify.

The Detroit funeral home was founded by Raymond Cantrell Sr. and most recently operated by Raymond Cantrell II, who inherited the business in 2016 after his father died. The facility was shut down in April after state inspectors found decomposing remains and "deplorable conditions."

Police Chief James Craig said state inspectors found 21 bodies during their April inspection. Then, state officials in August received an anonymous tip that there were bodies still in the funeral home that inspectors had missed in April, the chief said. A fetus and cremated adult body were found during the August inspection, Craig said.

The website of the Eastpointe funeral home that underwent another audit Tuesday references "our father, Raymond E. Cantrell, founder of Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit."  

But Reed insisted Wednesday the two businesses were not affiliated.

"The only connection was (Q A Cantrell owner) Annetta Cantrell used to be married to Raymond Cantrell (senior)," Reed said. "When he died, the funeral home in Detroit went through probate court and went to someone in his family. That's the only connection; they're completely separate businesses."

Syed said he wants to try to start “healing the community” as quickly as possible. On Oct. 27, he plans to hold a multi-faith prayer breakfast, and will offer grief counselors to families affected by the grisly finds. The counselors will be on hand at his office on Gratiot. To make an appointment, call (800) 338-3544.
Twitter: @SarahRahal_