Mortuary Investigated Over Caskets
HILO, Hawaii (AP) _ The owner of a funeral home is denying allegations that the home buried corpses in body bags instead of caskets purchased by customers.
Authorities seized hundreds of business records from Memorial Mortuary after receiving at least three reports of the allegation at the funeral home, officials said Thursday.
Brenda Carreira, lawyer for funeral home owner Robert R. Diego, said the funeral home had responded to state authorities last year when the allegations were first raised. But the state never replied until Wednesday, when the raid was conducted, she said.
``We have never removed any bodies from caskets,″ Carreira said.
The state plans to analyze the mortuary’s records to determine whether any graves warrant ``nonintrusive″ scans.
Chris Young, a deputy attorney general, said the investigation is ongoing. ``Nothing has been exhumed at this point,″ he said.
Only after all scans have been done and investigators determine a burial was not done according to contract will a grave be exhumed, and then only with consent from the family, the state said.
``The allegation is he may have sold a coffin to many different individuals,″ said Donald Wong, a chief investigator in the attorney general’s office.
In recent weeks, investigators from the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii, based at Hickam Air Force Base, used metal detectors to scan about 25 graves, according to investigators.
The attorney general’s office was flooded with phone calls Thursday from people seeking assurance that their loved ones were properly buried.
Last week, the discovery of bodies discarded near a Georgia crematory placed businesses involved in funerals and burials under scrutiny nationwide.
State records show that the mortuary’s license to perform funeral and embalming services expired in 1995, and that warning letters were sent in 1997 and 1999.
The agency that issues licenses referred questions to the state’s regulated industries complaints office. Calls to that office went unanswered after business hours.