July 19, 2014

Rogue funeral director in Massachusetts stashed remains of more than 50 people in storage unit

Cremated remains of 40 people and 12 bodies found 'stashed in storage units by rogue funeral director' who operated without a license for six years

The bodies of 12 people along with the cremated remains of 40 deceased and one dog have been discovered in storage units allegedly connected to a rogue funeral director.  The gruesome discoveries emerged on Thursday after authorities spent months investigating Massachusetts funeral home director Joseph O’Donnell.

 Rogue Funeral Director Joseph O'donnell

The bodies were kept at a storage unit in Weymouth while individually packaged remains were found at a location in Somerville.  The Suffolk District Attorney's office is now talking with families to try to identify the remains, The Boston Herald reported.

O'Donnell, 55, was arrested in April for allegedly scamming an elderly couple out of $12,000 in burial expenses then keeping the money when he went out of business.

O'Donnell had also been under investigation by state authorities who suspected he'd been operating from his home unlicensed for six years.

O’Donnell is due back in court on Friday, reported the Boston Globe. He has been held on $10,000 bail after pleading not guilty in April to stealing the elderly couple's funeral expenses. He is now likely to face further charges.  'Our top priority right now is determining the identity of the remains we’ve discovered,' DA Daniel Conley said Thursday.

“Investigators do not believe their deaths were the result of foul play, but the circumstances of their placement in the storage facility is a central point of inquiry,” Conley’s office said in a statement.

This is going to cause problems for the funeral homes run by different O'Donnells in Lowell, Salem and Danvers.  People have to investigate the funeral homes they plan to use.  At the minimum, make sure their license is check and check through online reviews.

Still the story remains puzzling.  Where were the families?  Why was he storing cremated remains 'individually packaged'?  Could it be that the families never picked up the remains of family members they never much liked in the first place?

And what is the role of the state regulators if not to insure that unlicensed funeral homes or funeral directors are not still practicing.  I'd also like to know what  is the state policy on unclaimed bodies or remains…  What is a funeral director to do?

Posted by Jill Fallon at July 19, 2014 3:22 PM | Permalink