Mortuary mix-up shocks family

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A Springfield family tells 2 NEWS Investigates they got a shock during the funeral visitation of a loved one.

The family asked 2 NEWS Investigates to get answers after getting the surprise they say should never happen to any family.

The death of a loved one is never easy, but when 65-year-old Paul Lemley died last month, his family could sum up their experience in one word.

“I was horrified,” said Paul’s Sister Linda Hess.

The family said they first noticed something wrong at the visitation. 8 days after Paul died.

“The funeral director opened the casket and we were shocked at what we saw,” said Hess.

The man lying in the casket did not look like Paul.

“His skin was black, he had clothing on that did not belong to him, and there was not make-up on him like they normally would do,” said Lemley.

The family hired Grunn Funeral Home which has locations in Cincinnati and Dayton.

They say the funeral home never notified or gave them a reason for the discoloration.

Family members say there was not even an attempt to cover up the discoloration with cosmetics, a service they paid for.

“I have nightmares seeing my brother lay there,” said Hess.

The family says they even called in another funeral home last minute to make Paul look more like him before friends and family paid their final respects at the visitation.

2 NEWS Investigates found it’s common to have discoloration of the body especially since Paul died from liver cancer and was jaundice at the time of his death.  The body was also kept for 8 days before the visitation. That gave it more time to decompose.

But at least one industry regulator says there’s supposed to be communication between the funeral home and family about all details when it comes displaying the body.

Natalie: “Does the funeral director have to let the family know about it?”

“They should inform the family, yes. The family should never be surprised,” said Executive Director of the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, Vanessa Niekamp

Niekamp is the director of the board that holds all funeral homes in the state accountable. They’re responsible for making sure every family in the state gets professional service at a very vulnerable time.

So I asked her about the Lemley family’s situation.

Natalie: “Is there anything in the code that says funeral homes need to make sure the body is presentable?”

Vanessa: “If a body was presented unfavorable and it was in the control of the funeral director or funeral home to have done something about that, the board would usually cite that under unprofessional conduct.”

But I found we were not the only one’s investigating Grunn Funeral Home. They were already in trouble with the state.

“It’s based upon an inspectors report that the location in Dayton was advertising funeral services and potentially was operating more as a funeral home than a retail space,” said Niekamp.

According to the complaint 2 NEWS Investigates obtained, the board determined the owner, director and funeral home itself falsely advertised their Dayton location and was operating that location as a funeral home without a license.

Niekamp said the funeral home gets a hearing.

They either face a fine, a license suspension, or could be shut down for violating state code.

I went to the funeral home’s Cincinnati location, which does have a valid license and questioned owner Eric Lusain about it.

Natalie: “Were you providing services out of your Dayton location?”

Eric: “We have a casket store. We sell funeral merchandise. No we were not providing funeral services. We said in a newspaper article that we could hold a funeral at our Dayton location which we still think is true, so we have to figure out what laws were broken, if any.”

Niekamp said the board takes misrepresentation of a funeral home serious because it’s their job to make sure a family is never under the wrong impression of the facility they’re doing business with.

Lusain plans to fight this complaint.

Lemley’s family has also filed a complaint with the board. They say they want to know why they weren’t notified of the condition of Paul’s body.

We wanted to know too, so I asked Lusain.

Natalie: “Why weren’t they notified of the discoloration?”

Eric: “Well, notification of a discoloration, we have a choice when we lay a body out and we try to honor the families wishes the best we can. We didn’t feel if we suggested a closed casket that they would have liked that. Everybody wants to see their loved one, one last time before they go.”

Lusain said he’s completely refunded the money of the funeral services to the family and admits he should have advised them to have the visitation earlier so the body didn’t have as long to get discolored.

But Lemley’s family said it’s not about the money. They want to make sure this never happens to anyone else.

“They made our last memory of our loved one a nightmare,” said Hess.

Lusain said he’s sorry they didn’t meet this family’s expectation. He said this is the first time it’s happened.

Natalie “How can you make sure this won’t happen again?”
Lusain: “Keep the family in the loop because everybody embalms differently. Different causes of death causes different things to go on with the body after death, so to keep them in the loop. One of the biggest things is to have a funeral sooner rather than later.”

Lemley’s family complaint against Grunn Funeral Home will now be reviewed and investigated by the state board. They will conduct interviews and determine if the situation was avoidable.

As far as the license complaint, Grunn will be able to contest that later this month. He has since submitted a request to the board to get the proper licensing for the Dayton location.

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