Identifying remains found in ceiling could take months

Exterior of the former Cantrell Funeral Home building is seen on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018 in Detroit. An anonymously written letter led Michigan inspectors to find badly decomposed remains of 11 infants hidden in a ceiling compartment of the shuttered Detroit funeral home. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT (AP) — Identifying the mummified remains of 10 fetuses and one full-term infant found hidden in a shuttered Detroit funeral home may depend on the availability of business records and could take months, a medical examiner said Tuesday.

An anonymous letter led state inspectors to find the remains Friday hidden in the ceiling, between the first and second floors, of a building owned until this year by the Cantrell Funeral Home. The fetuses were in a cardboard-like box, while the infant’s body was found in a coffin.

“Due to the conditions of the remains, the best path toward positive identification is finding existing records,” said Carl Schmidt, chief medical examiner for Wayne County. “The fact that these remains reached a funeral home means there should be a record somewhere that can help lead us to identifying information.”

Funeral homes usually have paperwork associated with remains they handle. Schmidt said the identification process will mostly rely on matching information in medical and funeral home records.

“We are working as quickly as possible, but the process could take weeks or months, depending on the information in the records, if they exist at all,” he said.

Cantrell Funeral Home was shut down in April after decomposing embalmed bodies and other violations were discovered. The business also had its mortuary license suspended, a ruling that has not been appealed amid the ongoing investigation into the business’ practices, according to Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Violations included two improperly stored bodies covered in what appeared to be mold and a third body with unknown fluids covering the facial area. Inspections also turned up an unsanitary embalming room.

The establishment also was operating with an expired prepaid funeral and cemetery sales registration. The state says money for prepaid funeral goods or services had not been deposited with an authorized escrow agent within 30 days of receipt.

The building on Detroit’s eastside has a new owner who plans to turn it into a community center.

On Monday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said a criminal complaint will be opened against the owners of the funeral home. As of early Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been made.

The Associated Press has been unable to find a telephone number for the owner, Raymond Cantrell.

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