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What We Know About the Remains of 11 Infants Hidden in a Detroit Funeral Home

Photograph by Twenty20

Police are still investigating after an anonymous letter—sent to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) last Friday—led to the remains of 11 infants found hidden inside of a ceiling compartment at a funeral home in Detroit.

According to WXYZ-TV Detroit Channel 7, inspectors from LARA uncovered the remains at the Cantrell Funeral Home, which closed earlier this year.

Lt. Detective Brian Bowser from the Detroit Police Department told reporters during a news conference that police were notified after officials from LARA located “a box and a casket” between the first and second floor of the ceiling.

Police later removed the items from the lowered ceiling and made the grisly discovery.

"They were actually in a cardboard box—9 of the 11," said Bowser, adding that they were "very small remains," found "stuffed, away from a stairwell."

The other two “stillborn” bodies were placed in separate trash bags and placed inside a single small casket, said The Detroit News. Two of the bodies found were in the advanced stages of decomposition and covered with mold, while another had “unknown fluids” covering the face. They also found improperly stored embalmed bodies in an unrefrigerated garage.

Bowser said the remains were well hidden due to several renovations that had taken place in the past.

When asked what went through his mind during the initial investigation, Bowser responded, "It's just the callousness of the operators, the owners and the employees of the funeral home."

Jameca LaJoyce Boone, the funeral home’s designated manager for a year before its closure, told The Detroit News she was shocked to learn about the bodies.

“I didn’t know anything about that,” she said. “I really don’t know how that could even have happened. I don’t know how long that’s been going on there. It’s very unfortunate, and they definitely need to find out who put them there.”

The Cantrell Funeral Home—operated by Raymond Cantrell II, who inherited the business after his father died in 2016—was closed and purchased four weeks ago by Naveed Syed, CEO of Quality Behavioral Health. According to Detroit Free Press, Syed had already begun the process of renovating the space into a community center when state investigators received the anonymous tip. He told reporters the place was full of stains, trash and reeked of "horrendous smells," adding that the "embalmed" or "mummified" bodies appeared to be up to three years old.

But Cantrell II, who says he only owned the funeral home for about a year, told WXYZ he was "appalled" when he heard about the bodies of the babies hidden inside the funeral home, claiming he tried to correct all of the things that were wrong, calling the discovery "unconscionable" and a "gross injustice" that reflects on his parents' business and him.

Though authorities have not yet determined how long the bodies were tucked away, buried inside the ceiling, Jason Moon, a spokesman for LARA, sent an email to reporters stating that investigators searched the site based on a “new complaint” when they discovered the decomposing bodies.

"We then immediately contacted local authorities," Moon said, noting that LARA had already suspended the mortuary licenses of both the home and Boone for "many violations, including improper storage of decomposing bodies of adults and infants" back in April.

"That suspension order remains in effect as does our investigation," Moon wrote. "We will use the evidence gathered today to add to our open investigation and will continue to work with local law enforcement as this case proceeds.”

Sadly, the Detroit Free Press says this is one of several cases in Michigan where funeral homes have been accused of “inadequately storing or failing to dispose of human remains.”

“Michigan residents trust funeral home directors, owners and their establishments to follow the law, especially when dealing with the death of a loved one,” Julia Dale, director of LARA’s corporations, securities and commercial licensing bureau, said in an April release—addressing public complaints and outlining the “unsanitary” and “deplorable” violations that led to the funeral home closure.

Meanwhile, police are still working to identify the remains of the 11 infant bodies—one of which, according to an update on WXYZ, has been there since 2009.

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