Six months after a Detroit funeral home was shut down for its “deplorable conditions,” investigators made a gruesome discovery of 11 infant bodies hidden in the ceiling.
Inspectors from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs found the remains at Cantrell Funeral Home after receiving an anonymous note on Friday afternoon that detailed their whereabouts, Detroit Police Detective Lt. Brian Bowser said in a press conference Friday.
“[LARA] received an anonymous letter describing exactly where the remains were,” Bowser explained, as reported by WXYZ-TV Detroit, noting that the Funeral Home owner admitted them entry. “They went right to the location — you have to climb up a ladder to look — and that’s when they observed the box and casket and called 911.”
With help from Detroit Police, the bodies of 11 infants and stillborns — stored in a cardboard box and multiple trash bags in one small casket — were found tucked away in a “lowered” false ceiling between the first and second story of the building.
“They’re very small remains,” Bowser said. “We have to find out what happened, and why it happened.”
Bowser also explained that the building had undergone construction several times and added a second story, which is how bodies were able to be hidden in what he described as the “empty space” between the floors.
In April, the funeral home was shut down after state officials discovered bodies that were “badly decomposed and covered in mold,” reports Fox 2 Detroit. At the time, the owner Raymond Cantrell — who reportedly took over the company in 2017 — admitted to storing the bodies to help customers who could not afford a proper burial.
“If I had them in the funeral home then my funeral home wouldn’t smell fresh,” Cantrell told the local outlet. “So yes, they are embalmed and serviced we put them in the garage.”
“Those who have asked me to hold their loved ones will know I was doing them a favor to accommodate them,” he continued. “For those that weren’t, like the many of the cremated they are trying to take from here or that they are taking from here. Those individuals we called we’ve tried to notify and they haven’t been picked up.”
Immediately after Friday’s discovery, a cadaver unit dog was brought in but no additional bodies were found.
Bowser said officials are working with the Wayne County medical examiner’s office to identify the bodies, some of which already have names, and notify family members.
While he acknowledged that the bodies were improperly cared for, he was unable to disclose how long they had been hidden in the ceiling for and if there are any pending criminal charges.
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LARA Communications Director Jason Moon also issued a statement about the gruesome discovery.
“Based on a new complaint, LARA investigators today searched Cantrell Funeral Home and found the decomposing bodies of 11 infants. We then immediately contacted local authorities,” he said. “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,” Moon continued. “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.”