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Snyder names team to investigate funeral homes

Karen Bouffard and George Hunter
The Detroit News
Perry Funeral Home is the subject of state and Detroit police investigations for allegedly mishandling remains and falsely claiming to have buried them. Attorneys for plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was granted class-action status earlier this month told a Wayne County judge Perry may have mishandled more than 200 infant and fetal remains.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has assembled a multi-disciplinary team to investigate funeral homes statewide as officials continue looking into hundreds of abandoned remains, including scores of infant bodies, discovered at two Detroit funeral homes last month. 

The team was created to assist the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs with an increase in the number and complexity of funeral home cases, the governor's office announced Thursday. 

Members include staff from LARA, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan State Police and the state Department of Environmental Quality, according to a press release.

“Michigan families deserve and expect their loved ones to be properly cared for and we have laws that must be followed to ensure that,” Snyder said in a statement.

“This multi-department quick-response team will help hold funeral homes to the highest standards and protect the public’s health and safety.” 

More: Parents of fetus found at Cantrell sue home, DMC

State inspectors and Detroit police on Oct. 12 removed 10 fetuses and an infant's body that were hidden in a ceiling compartment at the former Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack Avenue. The facility had been shuttered since April when LARA inspectors discovered deplorable conditions, including bodies covered with mold and stored in an unrefrigerated garage. 

Later in October, LARA and Detroit Police investigators removed 63 fetuses from Perry Funeral Home. Police are investigating allegations the home mishandled hundreds of fetuses and infants' bodies and filed death certificates falsely claiming that some of them had been buried.

The Perry investigation was triggered by a 72-page lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court that claims the funeral home, on Trumbull near Warren, stored the remains of stillborn and live birth babies in the Wayne State University School of Mortuary Science morgue for up to three years without trying to notify parents, some of whom wanted to donate the bodies for medical research. 

“We welcome the state starting a new team to look into regulatory issues. Detroit police will continue with the criminal investigation," Chief James Craig said Thursday.

The team assembled by Snyder will be able to quickly communicate and connect state resources and expertise when violations of funeral home regulations or other state laws are discovered during inspections and complaints from the public, the governor's office said. 

“We have seen a recent spike in complaints from consumers and others in the funeral home industry and unfortunately these allegations have led to several horrific discoveries,” said LARA Director Shelly Edgerton.

“I thank the governor for organizing this team that will focus on holding funeral homes accountable and safeguarding a family’s right to have their loved one put to rest in a dignified and respectful manner.” 

Who to call

Members of the public who have questions or concerns regarding the operation of Michigan’s funeral homes should contact LARA at 517-241-7000, or by email at

Twitter: @kbouffardDN