LARA Suspends All New Cemetery and Crematory Services at Knollwood Cemetery
Ongoing investigation determines cemetery is improperly storing remains of more than 300 infants and fetuses
Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-373-9280
December 11, 2018 – As a result of LARA’s ongoing investigations into Knollwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Canton, the establishment’s cemetery and crematory registrations have been summarily suspended and a Formal Complaint issued. In addition to last week’s cease and desist order against Knollwood for multiple violations of state laws, LARA regulators have determined the cemetery is improperly storing more than 300 uncremated remains of infants and fetuses in multiple crypts.
Knollwood’s practice of storing remains temporarily and without authorization demonstrates clear violations of Michigan’s Public Health and of the Occupational Code and possible violations of the Penal Code. These new violations, coupled with those found last week, pose an imminent threat to the public health and safety of Michiganders. Last week, LARA also summarily suspended the establishment’s prepaid funeral and cemetery sales registration.
Under today’s suspension order, Knollwood is now prohibited from performing any new cemetery and crematory services, but it is allowed to provide services, burial or entombment space, or cemetery merchandise that fulfills the terms of any existing contracts or invoices. The cemetery is also prohibited from burying or cremating the more than 300 fetuses and infants it has improperly stored, unless LARA directs it to do so. LARA is exploring any and all options to provide for appropriate final disposition for these remains. Consumers who have questions about Knollwood services should contact LARA at 517-241-7000, or by email at email@example.com.
Violations of state or local laws affecting the handling, custody, care, or transportation of a dead human body are also violations of the Occupational Code, and violations of the Occupational Code pertaining to the practice of mortuary science by a registered cemetery or crematory are also violations of the Cemetery Regulation Act.
New violations against Knollwood include:
- Investigators discovered more than 300 uncremated remains of fetuses and infants who died as far back as 2009. The remains were entombed collectively in multiple crypts that were repeatedly opened and added to by the cemetery. The remains were not buried or cremated contrary to the final disposition indicated on forms authorizing the method of final disposition. The crypts were not purchased by loved ones of the deceased, but were used as temporary storage until each crypt was full at which point final disposition would presumably occur. The uncremated remains were stored in plastic containers inadequately sealed with duct tape and, in some cases, leaking fluid.
- The Michigan Public Health Code prohibits cemeteries from entombing or achieving another final disposition of a dead human body or fetus, unless there is a completed form authorizing final disposition that accompanies the body or fetus. In some cases, Knollwood obtained possession of them without being expressly directed or authorized to do so via an authorization for final disposition form.
Knollwood’s previous violations of Michigan’s Cemetery Regulation Act include:
- Twenty-seven plastic containers containing an undetermined number of uncremated remains lacked the appropriate documentation, including, but not limited to, incomplete or missing burial transit permits, death certificates, and “Final Disposition of Stillbirth” forms. In some cases, Knollwood obtained possession of deceased infants without first being expressly directed or authorized to do so by a relative of the deceased persons or a person entitled to custody.
- In other cases, Knollwood, after agreeing to provide for the final disposition of the deceased infants and fetuses, failed to properly dispose of them for more than 60 or 180 days after the date it took possession of them. Unless certain exceptions exist, the Michigan Penal Code prohibits a cemetery, after agreeing to provide for the final disposition of a dead human body, from failing or refusing to properly dispose of a body for more than 60 days after the date it took possession of the body. Failing to do so for more than 60 days is a misdemeanor. Failing to do so for more than 180 days is a felony.
- By storing the uncremated remains on behalf of Perry Funeral Home, Knollwood aided and abetted Perry Funeral Home, a person not licensed, in the practice of funeral directing.
- The Cemetery Commissioner determined that Knollwood is guilty of conduct which constitutes dishonest and unfair dealing or a demonstration of a lack of good moral character.
Most of the more than 300 remains appeared to be stored on behalf of Perry Funeral Home. LARA suspended Perry’s mortuary science license and that of its manager in October. LARA’s regulatory investigations into Knollwood and Perry remain open.
Under Michigan’s Cemetery Regulation Act, a hearing to determine if the suspension order is warranted or whether any other disciplinary action should be taken must be scheduled upon the order’s issuance. The formal hearing is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, before an administrative law judge in Lansing.
Knollwood may request a separate hearing to challenge the previously issued cease and desist order, and it may participate in a settlement/compliance conference before the scheduled hearing date. Knollwood’s registration under the Prepaid Act remains suspended, and it has the option to request a compliance/settlement conference or request an immediate hearing to resolve that matter.
LARA is a regulatory agency with no criminal enforcement powers. When the department determines that one of its regulatory actions could result in criminal charges, those cases are referred to either the Michigan Attorney General’s office or local law enforcement.
Members of the public who have questions or concerns regarding the operation of Michigan’s funeral homes and cemeteries should contact LARA at 517-241-7000, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on LARA’s regulation of Michigan cemeteries can be found here.