State halts new activity at cemetery over improper burials

George Hunter
The Detroit News
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced it had issued a cease and desist order against Knollwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Canton Township, "due to multiple violations of Michigan's Cemetery Regulation Act — and an imminent threat to the public health and safety."

State officials announced Tuesday they had suspended all new activity at Knollwood Park Cemetery in Canton Township after inspectors found more than 300 improperly-stored infant and fetal remains in multiple crypts.

The action by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs comes a week after the agency suspended some activities at the cemetery because of multiple violations.

"Last week, we shut down some aspects of Knollwood," LARA spokesman Jason Moon told The Detroit News. "Now, they're suspended from taking on any new business."

According to a LARA press release, Knollwood's "cemetery and crematory registrations have been summarily suspended and a Formal Complaint issued. In addition to last week’s cease and desist order against Knollwood for multiple violations of state laws, LARA regulators have determined the cemetery is improperly storing more than 300 un-cremated remains of infants and fetuses in multiple crypts."

Knollwood general manager Dennis Herman told The News: "The only thing I can say is, we’re going to have a couple of hearings and explain everything, and I think we’ll come out OK."

The suspension is part of LARA's joint investigation into the handling of infant and fetal remains by Perry Funeral Home and Cantrell Funeral Home, both of Detroit. Detroit police and Michigan State Police on Thursday accompanied LARA inspectors on raids of Knollwood and Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit.

After that raid, LARA suspended Knollwood's prepaid funeral and cemetery sales registration. On Tuesday, all new business was suspended.

"Knollwood’s practice of storing remains temporarily and without authorization demonstrates clear violations of Michigan’s Public Health and of the Occupational Code and possible violations of the Penal Code," LARA's press release said. "These new violations, coupled with those found last week, pose an imminent threat to the public health and safety of Michiganders."

The release continued: "Knollwood is now prohibited from performing any new cemetery and crematory services, but it is allowed to provide services, burial or entombment space, or cemetery merchandise that fulfills the terms of any existing contracts or invoices," the release said. 

"The cemetery is also prohibited from burying or cremating the more than 300 fetuses and infants it has improperly stored, unless LARA directs it to do so. LARA is exploring any and all options to provide for appropriate final disposition for these remains."

State officials said Tuesday's suspension does not mean people can't visit the graves of people buried at Knollwood.

The new violations against Knollwood include: 

•    Investigators discovered more than 300 un-cremated remains of fetuses and infants who died as far back as 2009. "The remains were entombed collectively in multiple crypts that were repeatedly opened and added to by the cemetery," LARA's press release said.

"The remains were not buried or cremated contrary to the final disposition indicated on forms authorizing the method of final disposition," the release said. "The crypts were not purchased by loved ones of the deceased, but were used as temporary storage until each crypt was full at which point final disposition would presumably occur. The un-cremated remains were stored in plastic containers inadequately sealed with duct tape and, in some cases, leaking fluid."

•    "The Michigan Public Health Code prohibits cemeteries from entombing or achieving another final disposition of a dead human body or fetus, unless there is a completed form authorizing final disposition that accompanies the body or fetus," the release said. "In some cases, Knollwood obtained possession of them without being expressly directed or authorized to do so via an authorization for final disposition form."

LARA said most of the more than 300 remains appeared to be stored on behalf of Perry Funeral Home. LARA suspended Perry’s mortuary science license and that of its manager in October. LARA’s regulatory investigations into Knollwood and Perry remain open.

Anyone with questions is asked to contact LARA at (517) 241-7000; or by email at
(313) 222-2134
Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN