July 26, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Jay Nixon took action today to shut down a Columbia funeral home after recent state inspections found bodies being stored without refrigeration or embalming for more than 24 hours - in one case, for more than 10 months - as well as soiled caskets that were re-used, a filthy embalming room, and other unsanitary conditions.
Nixon is asking the Boone County Circuit Court to prohibit the Warren Funeral Chapel, located at 12 E. Ash St., from engaging in funeral directing or embalming, because of the violations that were found by inspectors from the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. The lawsuit also names Harold Warren Sr. and Harold Warren Jr. as defendants. Warren Jr. has been the funeral director-in-charge since February 2008; Warren Sr. was the previous funeral director-in-charge.
"There are very serious concerns for human health and safety about how this establishment has handled human remains," Nixon said. "Based on the problems inspectors have found, there's no question that what has happened here needs to be stopped, and that the defendants need to be stopped from practicing as funeral directors and embalmers until or unless they can verifiably demonstrate they can operate within the law."
On July 11, inspectors for the Board who went to Warren Funeral Chapel noted a strong odor throughout the facilities when they entered. They found the unembalmed, unrefrigerated body of someone who died in September 2007 in an advanced stage of decay stored in the electrical room. The inspectors also found a casket that Warren Sr. said had been used for that body until recently. He informed the inspectors that the casket was to be re-used for the cremation of another body. Two subsequent inspections found more bodies that were stored for more than 24 hours without being refrigerated or embalmed.
The inspections also found that dead and diseased bodies were being handled without gloves, that the embalming room was in disarray, the room and its utensils were dirty and had not been cleaned since the previous embalming, that the embalming table was covered with blood, and that the embalming log had not been updated.
Nixon said that in addition to the violations of state laws concerning funeral directors and embalmers, the Warrens and their business also violated Missouri consumer protection statutes by misrepresenting that bodies would be embalmed and properly handled, and that bodies would be cremated when they were not.
Nixon is asking the court to issue an order finding that Warren Funeral Chapel poses a serious danger to the health, safety and welfare of its employees, its clients and the general public; to issue injunctions prohibiting the defendants from engaging in the practice of funeral directing and/or embalming; to issue a finding that the defendants violated state consumer protection laws; and to order them to pay appropriate penalties and costs to the state.