Friday, November 5, 2010

Funeral Home Buries Wrong Man in Wrong Grave

A state disciplinary board today ordered a Brookline funeral home to explain how they mixed up the bodies of two men in August, burying one man in the wrong grave, digging him up in time for his actual funeral – and then allegedly failing to tell one family about the mistakes.

The Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers ordered Stanetsky Memorial Chapels, whose main branch is on Beacon Street in Brookline, to explain the actions of four members of its staff within the next three weeks.

The board today detailed the results of its investigation as it issued show cause orders against company manager Kim Perry, embalmers and funeral directors Paul Glennon and Bruce Schlossberg, and apprentice embalmer Jane Salk.

For all four people, the board alleged that on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, the bodies of two men, who had died separately, arrived at Stanetsky's Brookline facility. The board's show cause orders, combined into one PDF document, can be found here.

Stanetsky is owned and operated by Service Corporation International, a Houston-based company that owns 1800 funeral homes nationwide. Company spokeswoman Lisa Marshall, speaking on behalf of the company and the four employees, said SCI is cooperating with the board.

She also said that corporate policy bans her from discussing individual cases, but that she could speak in generic terms about the company's procedures.

"We work very, very hard to ensure that mistakes don't happen. We have very good policies, we have good training in place,'' Marshall said. "We work with our employees to prevent mistakes. But, occasionally, a mistake happens. When that happens, our policy is to work with the families.''

The state board in its report made public today outlined the company's alleged mistakes earlier this year.

The first man - identified only as Decedent 1 -- was to be buried next to his late wife at the Chevra Kadusha Cemetery in Woburn on Aug. 25. The final resting place for the second man, identified only as Decedent 2, was to be Kopaigarod Cemetery in Boston, the board said.

Glennon, according to the board, violated identification procedures and put the body of Decedent 2 into the casket for Decedent 1 whose unembalmed body was supposed to be buried next to his late wife in Woburn.

The burial took place in Woburn on Aug. 25 as scheduled, the board said.

But one day later, frantic Stanetsky staff discovered Decedent 1's body was still in Brookline, the board said. With the help of the staff at the Woburn cemetery, the grave was dug up, the casket opened and the bodies were switched, the board said.

On that day, Decedent 1 was laid to rest next to his late wife in Woburn, and his niece was notified by the Stanetsky that the service had been completed, the board said. But they did not let the family know in advance about the mistake, which the board concluded the company should have done.

Four days later, Decedent 2 was buried in Boston with a graveside service, the date he was originally scheduled to be laid to rest, the board said.

The board found the staff of Stanetsky kept the mix-up secret from the family of Decedent 2. The board also said Stanetsky staff acted without first notifying both families and without getting a required disinterment permit.

"Stanetsky Brookline staff failed to notify the decedents' families of the erroneous interment prior to attempting to rectify the situation,'' the board concluded.

Stanetsky staff, however, have insisted to board investigators that both families were notified in a timely fashion. A phone call has been placed with Stanetsky seeking comment on the board's allegations.

Sanctions against the four ranges from revocation of license to probation and may include fines, according to the board.


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