Police on Friday uncovered the remains of 63 babies and fetuses left in boxes and a freezer at a Detroit funeral home, the second such grisly discovery in the past week. Perry Funeral Home was shut down after police found the bodies of 36 babies or fetuses stored in boxes and another 27 bodies in freezers. Some of the dates of death went back to 2015. Last week, police found 11 babies at a separate funeral home in the city.
“I’ve never seen anything [like this] in my 41 and a half years,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig told reporters Friday. “I’m stunned. My team is stunned. God help those families,” he said.
The search came after a press conference last week announcing the discovery at the Cantrell Funeral Home led a man to tip police off about Perry Funeral Home.
“A parent saw that and told his attorneys to contact police,” Craig said. “I hope this is isolated to these two, but I can’t say that with certainty. So this is much larger than we might know,” he said.
State police, the attorney general’s office, and the FBI are all gotten involved in the investigation, Craig said. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has suspended the license of both Perry Funeral Home and its director, Gary Deak, for “improper storage of bodies resulting in an imminent threat to public safety.”
The parent who tipped police off to alleged violations at Perry, Larry Davis, has already filed a civil lawsuit against the funeral home along with his wife, Rachel Brown, alleging that the body of their late infant daughter was improperly stored.
The lawsuit alleges that the funeral home filed at least seven other fraudulent death certificates in connection with other deceased babies.
Peter Parks, a lawyer representing Davis and Brown in their suit, said Friday that he hopes to expand the case to make it a class-action lawsuit and represent dozens of other families believed to have suffered from improper burials at Perry, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Parks said the situation “involves issues that quite clearly touch on matters that as a society we hold as sacred.” Up to 200 babies’ remains may have been improperly kept by Perry Funeral Home, according to Parks and his co-counsel, Daniel Cieslak.
The lawsuit filed by Parks and Cieslak also alleges that Medicaid fraud may be behind the improper burials, claiming that the funeral home billed Medicaid, the state of Michigan, and the Detroit Medical Center for burials that it never performed. While it remains unclear how much money may be involved in such an alleged scheme, Parks said it “must be significant.”
Detroit police say they have no evidence at this point that the violations at the Perry Funeral Home and Cantrell Funeral Home are related. Homicide detectives raided the offices of a third funeral home Friday, the QA Cantrell Funeral Home in Eastpointe, on Detroit’s border, to determine if there is any connection there with the bodies of babies found in the ceiling of the Cantrell Funeral Home. They confiscated computers, business cellphones, and paperwork but have not yet released their findings. A spokeswoman for the Detroit Police Department declined to comment on that investigation.