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Decomposing Bodies Found in Funeral Home

June 21, 2003

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ Eight decomposing bodies, some of them mauled by rodents, were found Friday in a funeral home, authorities said.

Two of the bodies were found in a garage at Sherrill-Harden Funeral Home and six were in a back room. Officials said four were in cremation boxes. The others were in containers.

All had been embalmed and apparently were left there over the past few months, officials said. DNA tests were planned to determine their identities.

The building was searched after authorities received at least two anonymous tips, including one from someone who identified himself or herself as a funeral home employee, according to Mayor Jack Ford.

``This is extremely rare and very serious,″ said Ann Cunningham, executive director of the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. ``I can’t imagine being in the families’ position. We are going to try to get every detail and get to the truth.″

Over the last year, state and county officials have raised concerns about the funeral home’s operations.

Last June, the state funeral board heard allegations against Sherrill-Harden of embalming without a license and unprofessional conduct, according to the board’s minutes. It was not clear whether the board took action or if the issue was resolved.

The Lucas County Health Department warned Sherrill-Harden in a letter dated June 4 this year that it had failed to file timely death certificates.

The law requires the filing of the certifies within five days of a death, and failure to file a completed death certificate is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The Ohio Department of Health followed up with a June 12 warning to bring the death certificates up to date and demanded a written explanation for the delay.

Relatives of people who had been buried or cremated by Sherrill-Harden gathered Friday outside the building.

Kimberly Lampkin said she has been trying to reach state officials for months to complain about Sherrill-Harden.

Lampkin said the funeral home told her they didn’t cremate and bury her mother’s ashes as planned until almost four months after she died in September 2001.

Ronnette Munn, 48, said the funeral home handled her father’s services after he died April 20.

``I’m praying to God he wasn’t one of them who was in there,″ she said.

Munn said funeral director Henry Harden was professional and handled the services well.

Robert Barner, whose cousin was cremated in December, agreed.

``He did right by me,″ Barner said. ``I’ve had family members come through here for years and we haven’t had any problems.″

Last year 334 bodies were found at Georgia’s Tri-State Crematory.

Brent Marsh, 29, who operated the crematory, faces 334 felony criminal charges of theft by deception and also is charged with 64 counts of abuse of a body.

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