73 baby remains in 3 Detroit funeral homes investigated

The Detroit police department’s telephones jumped off the hook with more complaints after media reports revealed the discovery of human remains in funeral homes that were not being disposed of within 180 days as required by Michigan law.

Detroit police chief James Craig has launched a criminal investigation of how two funeral home operators in the city were storing instead of disposing of dead fetuses.  63 were found at the Perry Funeral Home on Trumbull Road.  Another 11 were found stored in a ceiling at the Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack Avenue.  Nether funeral home operator has been charged with improperly storing and disposing of human remains.

Craig in an October 19th news conference said the discovery has triggered interest in a task force that involves state and federal police and prosecutors.  He said the U.S. Department of Justice through the U.S. Attorneys office has concerns about Medicaid fraud involving the two operators and others.  U.S. Attorneys nationally share information with each other about unique investigations in their jurisdictions.

Michigan in 2003 enacted a new state law in response to the discovery of 300 bodies in buildings and woods surrounding a Georgia crematory.  Family members were given urns filled with burned wood chips or cement mix.  Michigan lawmakers thought their 1915 cemetery act with a $100 fine, license revocation and 90 days in jail was inadequate.

Robert Tate, Jr. of Toledo lost his funeral license in Ohio for letting 11 bodies rot in his place and spent a week in jail.

So the state’s lawmakers decided to make it a felony with penalties of up to 10 years and $50,000 in fines for funeral and crematory directors to improperly dispose of human remains within 180 days upon their taking possession of the body. 

The disposal is mandatory as and self-imposing by the use of the word “shall” in the state, said Craig.   Remains disposed of improperly under 180 days is a misdemeanor.  On the 181st day it’s a felony and each day afterwards.

Lawmakers gave the professionals it licensed limited exemptions for the 180 day mandatory disposal deadline.

· Delays due to seasonal factors relating to the method of final disposition of the dead human body.

· Delays due to the availability of services required to complete the final disposition.

· The directives of the person having lawful authority over the final disposition of the body to postpone that disposition pending funeral services, the presence of certain family members, or other activities.

· Delays due to the inability to obtain the necessary authorizations regarding the method of final disposition or due to the inability to locate individuals essential to making a decision regarding the final disposition.

· Delays due to an autopsy, investigation of the cause of death, the gathering of evidence, or other activity or procedure required by a governmental or law enforcement agency.

· Delays pursuant to an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction upon petition and showing of good cause for a delay in the final disposition.

In Ohio in 2015 Robert Tate of Toledo was discovered to have kept 11 bodies rotting in his funeral  home.  Tate was required to voluntarily give up his license, spend a week in jail, get a job and make $3000 in restitution to two families.  He was also restricted from ever working in the funeral industry and complete 200 hours of community service.  The judge gave him 10 years of community control.  The families also got an apology from  him.

The funeral home founded by Raymond Cantrell at 10400 Mack Road in Detroit is permanently closed from the discovery of human remains that were not disposed.

Craig expressed concern about the number of locations and wants to know why.  Was it medicaid fraud, financial gain, who and who else are involved are among the questions his investigation hopes to uncover.  He said the probe would be “wide.”

He said there were over 700 mortuary providers in the state and the involvement of state and federal police and prosecutors will express the state’s intent to enforce it’s tough disposal of human remains law.

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.