DAYTON, Ohio -- Boxes containing the cremated remains of 56 people stored at a southwest Ohio house under foreclosure are the same ones that a state regulatory agency found at a now-closed funeral home last year, officials said Wednesday.
Dayton police said that a contractor hired to remove remaining items from the house co-owned by the former director of the funeral home found the boxes in a closet Tuesday in the city north of Cincinnati. The boxes labeled with names and dates of death of the deceased individuals were collected by the Montgomery County coroner's office, which is working to inventory them and try to find any next of kin.
The remains found Tuesday were the same ones that were found at the McLin Funeral Home in Dayton last October by investigators for the state Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, board executive director Vanessa Niekamp said Wednesday. She said the board in January permanently revoked the licenses of funeral home director Scherrie McLin and the funeral home after a state investigation revealed violations of state laws and administrative codes.
The board, which is the court-appointed receiver for the now-closed funeral home's prepaid funeral service contracts, had court permission to enter the funeral home last year and remove those documents, Niekamp said.
"We saw the boxes then and recorded the names," said Niekamp, who called the discovery of the boxes at the house "horrifying."
She said the board had no authority to remove the remains but immediately informed the county prosecutor's office about them. Calls to the prosecutor's office were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Records with the county auditor's office show that the house where the boxes were found is owned by Scherrie McLin and Tanya Anderson. They could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Niekamp and coroner's office director Ken Betz said their agencies and others will be working together to determine whether there are relatives to claim the remains and how to handle any unclaimed ones. The dates on many of the boxes date back to the early 1990s, with the oldest dated 1982.
Coroner's officials also will check death certificates, on which funeral homes are to place the final disposition of remains, he said.
Betz and Niekamp said it would be up to law enforcement agencies to determine if any laws have been broken. Dayton police didn't immediately return calls Wednesday.
Niekamp said state law allows funeral directors to dispose of remains after 60 days if they are not claimed, but it doesn't say they have to be disposed of at any set time. The law does say that when the remains are disposed of, they must be placed in a grave, a crypt or a niche, Niekamp said. An example of a niche would be an alcove or recess in a wall that might be used to display remains of someone in a museum, she said.
"It's very common, unfortunately, that someone passes away and has no one claiming their remains," Niekamp said, adding that the law was intended to enable funeral directors to make arrangements for handling unclaimed remains.
Police have said that the remains found Tuesday were still in the plastic boxes funeral homes use for temporary storage.
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