Police identify some fetuses found in Detroit funeral home

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Naveed Syed shows the small casket where some of the remains of 11 infants were found inside the former Cantrell Funeral Home on Saturday October 13, 2018.

Police have identified some of the fetuses discovered two weeks ago in a Detroit funeral home ceiling compartment, as a task force dedicated to investigating city funeral homes prepares to launch, Detroit police chief James Craig said Thursday.

Craig added he has "deep concerns" over how records were kept at the two businesses being investigated, Perry Funeral Home and Cantrell Funeral Home.

"Every day, there's something new with this case," Craig said.

On Oct. 12, state inspectors and Detroit police removed 10 fetuses and an infant's body that were hidden in a ceiling compartment at Cantrell's facility on Mack. A week later, state and Detroit investigators removed 63 fetuses from Perry Funeral Home on Trumbull.

The investigations into the two funeral homes are similar but separate, Craig said Thursday during a press conference at police headquarters.

"It's a very complex investigation," he said. "Effective Monday, we go operational with our multi-jurisdictional task force, which will primarily look at Perry."

Craig said investigators have identified six of the fetuses found at Cantrell, and have interviewed three of the parents. He said he's not at liberty to discuss what the parents said.

"The biggest challenge is identifying those fetuses," the chief said. "We want those families to have a sense of closure."

Police were able to identify the six fetuses because they had tags affixed to them with their mothers' names, Craig said.

He added police are still working to identify the other four fetuses found in Cantrell, along with an infant's body that was also hidden in the ceiling compartment.

Craig said some of the people being investigated have "lawyered up — but we respect that."

Cantrell was shut down in April after inspectors with the Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs found 21 improperly stored bodies, some of them covered in mold, in the facility. All told, 38 unattended bodies or fetuses, and 269 containers of cremated remains have been removed from the facility.

Cantrell owner Raymond Cantrell II has not returned multiple phone calls seeking comment.

Police also are investigating claims made in a lawsuit that Perry's director filed death certificates falsely claiming he'd buried fetuses and infants, and fraudulently billed Medicaid, the Detroit Medical Center and the state for services that weren't performed.

Perry attorney Joshua I. Arnkoff insisted his client "has not committed any criminal offenses."

"The allegations being made through the press are inaccurate," Arnkoff said in a written statement last week. "Perry Funeral Home has conducted itself within the confines of the applicable statutes."

Craig said investigators have been looking into a number of tips phoned in from the public.

"We are following paper," he said. "These investigators have been working tirelessly on this case. Preliminarily, I can say there are deep concerns over record-keeping."

Craig added: "Several local funeral homes have offered their services to provide a final disposition. We welcome that."

The chief said the fact that LARA has only three inspectors who have to cover the 750 funeral homes in Michigan makes them "reactive and not proactive."

"That would be like if I had only three homicide investigators to handle homicides for the city of Detroit," he said, adding, "I'm not being critical of those who do the work."

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