A Jan. 12 inspection of Arkansas Funeral Care in Jacksonville found the funeral home’s cooler in its holding facility “filled beyond capacity with bodies,” according to a state inspector’s report, with two bodies “stacked on top of each other” and other bodies, not embalmed, lying outside the cooler.
The state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors suspended the licenses of the funeral home and its manager, LeRoy Wood, during an emergency hearing Wednesday afternoon. Several hours later, officials with the state Crime Laboratory and the Pulaski County coroner’s office removed 31 bodies from the funeral home.
The board’s staff members spent much of Thursday notifying family members to make arrangements to transfer the bodies to other funeral homes.
In her report to the funeral board, inspector Leslie Stokes noted that during her initial inspection of the funeral home, one body “was strapped on a cot in an obvious state of decomposition, half covered in a bed sheet that was saturated in bodily fluids that had seeped from the body.” The same “decomposing body was still on a cot, half wrapped in a soiled sheet, unrefrigerated” on her second visit (Jan. 13), Stokes said.
Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs said the two offices finished their work at Arkansas Funeral Care about 12:30 a.m. Thursday, with 11 bodies transported to the Crime Lab and 20 sent to the coroner’s office.
The bodies were split between the two facilities so the coroner’s morgue wouldn’t be overburdened, Hobbs said.
Hobbs said calls Thursday morning to his office had been “nonstop” from clients of Arkansas Funeral Care, but his office directed calls to the state board.
“Once a family makes a decision on what funeral home they are going to use, then we do our normal procedure and the power of release,” he said. “We have to get a release signed from the family to allow that funeral home to pick up their loved one. From that point, we do our normal procedure.”
Board Executive Secretary Amy Goode said 20 family members had been contacted by 4 p.m. Thursday about the locations of their loved ones that had been at Arkansas Funeral Care, but the board was working into the evening to contact all families involved.
“We’re letting them know what they need to do to get their loved ones picked up, whether they are at the coroner’s office or with the state,” she said. “They’re having to contact funeral homes and work with them on getting their loved ones.”
Goode said family members couldn’t be contacted until after the temporary suspension of Arkansas Funeral Care’s license and officials had documentation on the bodies at the funeral home.
The board began investigating Arkansas Funeral Care, on West Main Street in Jacksonville, after receiving a complaint from former employee Mike Jones, who said in a Jan. 12 letter to the board that Arkansas Funeral Home showed a “blatant disregard for the dead.”
By Shea Stewart – ArkansasOnline.com –