State moves to revoke license of Cantrell Funeral Home

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Detroit police and state inspectors found 11 fetal and infant remains hidden in a false ceiling at the former Cantrell Funeral Home in October.

Detroit — In the latest fallout from a wide-ranging investigation into the handling of infant and fetal remains, state officials Friday announced they're moving to revoke the license of Cantrell Funeral Home after finding "numerous acts of fraud, deceit, dishonesty, incompetence and gross negligence."

The alleged violations include reusing caskets, and knowingly making false statements on death certificates.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs began its investigation into Cantrell in April, when it found decomposing bodies covered in mold, along with other violations. In October, Detroit police and LARA inspectors discovered 11 infant and fetal remains stored in a false ceiling, after receiving a letter that also alleged fraud at the funeral home.

That grisly discovery kicked off a criminal investigation by Detroit police that also includes alleged wrongdoing at Perry Funeral Home, which also has had its license suspended.

As part of the probe, LARA earlier this month also halted all new activity at Knollwood Memorial Park cemetery in Canton Township, which state officials said was improperly storing infant and fetal remains that had been handled by Perry.

On Friday, LARA spokesman Jason Moon issued a press release outlining the agency's reasons for attempting to permanently revoke the licenses of Cantrell and its manager, Jameca LaJoyce Boone.

"LARA’s goal in taking the present actions is to ensure that these individuals and the home are never licensed in the funeral home industry again," Moon said.

"Based on multiple violations of Michigan’s Public Health and Occupational Codes and the Prepaid Funeral and Cemetery Sales Act, LARA is seeking to revoke the home’s and Boone’s mortuary science licenses as well as the home’s prepaid funeral and cemetery sales registration," the release said.

The LARA investigation also included Raymond Cantrell II, who inherited the funeral home after the death of his father, Raymond Cantrell Sr.

Cantrell II, according to the LARA release, "was running day-to-day operations at the funeral home in 2017 and 2018" and the agency said it "will also seek to prevent (him) from future licensure." 

He did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment.

Moon told The Detroit News that Friday's action does not affect Q A Cantrell Funeral Home in Eastpointe, which is owned by Annetta Cantrell, ex-wife of the late Raymond Cantrell Sr. The Eastpointe funeral home also is under investigation; Detroit police raided the facility in October, removing computers and other records.

"That's a separate issue," Moon said. "That investigation is ongoing."

In April, LARA suspended the licenses of Cantrell's Detroit facility and Boone after inspectors found "deplorable and unsanitary conditions including the improper storage of decomposing bodies of adult and infants," Friday's release said.

"LARA’s completion of its administrative investigation has resulted in formal complaints against Cantrell Funeral Home, Boone, and (Raymond) Cantrell II," the release said.

LARA's findings laid out in the press release include:

•    "Numerous acts of fraud, deceit, dishonesty, incompetence, and gross negligence in the practice of mortuary science," Moon said.
•    Storing deceased human bodies in a "disrespectful and callous manner in various locations throughout its facility in a manner, and for a length of time that resulted in several of the bodies reaching an advanced stage of decomposition," the release said.
•    Unlicensed activity and aiding and abetting unlicensed activity.
•    Operating a funeral home without a licensed designated manager.
•    Reusing single-use caskets.
•    Extremely unsanitary conditions and inadequate ventilation in the embalming room.
•    The untimely filing of death certificates.
•    Knowingly making a false statement on a death certificate.
•    Improper storage of medical waste.
•    Failing to escrow approximately $65,990 the home received in connection with prepaid funeral contracts.

"LARA will use these formal complaints and their findings to seek license revocations," Moon said in the release.

Cantrell II and Boone will have the opportunity to meet with LARA officials "to either demonstrate compliance with the law or voluntarily engage in settlement negotiations," the release said.

"If no response is received to the formal complaints, or if the respondents request to proceed directly to an administrative hearing, one will be scheduled."

Moon said it will be up to the Michigan Board of Examiners to determine whether the licenses are permanently revoked, and if any additional penalties are to be levied. 

Since October, hundreds of unclaimed adult, infant and fetal remains have been removed from Cantrell. About 300 of them were memorialized in November during a service at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, as part of an All Soul's Day commemoration.

 On Nov. 12, during a Veterans' Day service at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, 18 veterans whose remains were found at Cantrell were laid to rest
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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN