The remains of 11 infants were found stuffed in a box and small coffin in the ceiling of a defunct Detroit funeral home on Friday.
State authorities received an anonymous tip that infant bodies were hidden in what Detroit Police Detective Lt. Brian Boweser described as a “false ceiling between the first and second floor” of the Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack.
State inspectors told Motor City Muckraker that the still-born bodies were stuffed in a cardboard box and a small coffin.
“They were kind of hidden away,” Bowser told reporters at a news conference Friday evening. “It’s just the callousness of the operators, the owners, the employees of the funeral home.”
DPD Lt. Detective Brian Bowser says they recovered bodies of 11 stillborns improperly stowed in a “hidden false ceiling between the first and second floor of the funeral home” after an anonymous letter was sent to LARA Friday. @detroitnews pic.twitter.com/unqxCanety
— Sarah Rahal (@SarahRahal_) October 13, 2018
Jameca LaJoyce Boone, the funeral home’s designated manager before it was closed, said she was surprised by the discovery.
“I didn’t know anything about that,” she told The Detroit News. “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.”
Police and state authorities said they were unsure how long the bodies had been hidden. The Wayne County medical examiner’s office is investigating and will try to reach the families of the deceased infants.
Police said some of the names of the still-born babies were found at the funeral home.
The state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) told Motor City Muckraker that the discovery follows the suspension of the funeral home’s licenses in April for violations ranging from improperly storing decomposed bodies to mold and gross negligence.
“Based on a new complaint, LARA investigators today searched Cantrell Funeral Home and found the decomposing bodies of 11 infants,” the state said in a statement. “We then immediately contacted local authorities. In April, LARA suspended the mortuary licenses of both the home and its manager Jameca LaJoyce Boone for many violations including the improper storage of decomposing bodies of adult and infants. That suspension order remains in effect as does our investigation. 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.”
The property has since changed ownership and was being turned into a community center, according to WXYZ.
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Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.