Possible code violations at funeral home

February 20, 2012 8:34:48 PM PST
A funeral home on Chicago's South Side is being investigated by police for possible code violations.

Police were called to Carter Funeral Chapels Monday morning, where officers say they found the facility in disarray. Investigators say the funeral home is without heat and electricity.

City inspectors are on the scene and concerned residents who have loved ones at the funeral home are looking for answers.

For now, the funeral home has been closed. The Chicago Police Department issued the funeral home with an ordinance violation, citing "failure to provide adequate shelter, protection, care and disposition of deceased human remains."

"They're not coming out to say anything to no one," said Tonya Stanley. "They are not trying to console no one. Bodies are in there. My uncle's body is in there."

Monday was an emotional day for the families whose loved ones remains are inside this South Side funeral home. It was also a day without answers, as police, health and building inspectors continued to go through the facility, trying to determine the extent of the violations.

Julia Bailey's father, Tom McLin, passed away in November. She is still waiting for his ashes and doesn't even know if he was cremated.

"That makes me wonder if one of these bodies is my father's, because I have no answers. I have no closure, and that's why I'm here," said Bailey.

The investigation started almost by accident, when Monday morning Chicago Police responded to a call of a suspicious vehicle parked in front of the Carter funeral home. Upon seeing the back door open, they went inside, believing there might be a burglary taking place. What they found was a facility in disarray, with no heat and no electricity. The fire department was called in to determine how safe it was.

Then came the inspectors.

Contractor Brian Johnson didn't want his face shown on camera, but he says he has done a lot of work for the home over the years and has witnessed, first-hand, a long list of code violations, and the mishandling of bodies in their care.

"They should have been in a cooler, but because there is no cooler or no working cooler, then they were put in the garage to keep cold, because it's cold outside," said Johnson. "They would take water containers, and fill them up with water, and freeze them, and then stick the bottles underneath the arms or underneath the head of the body to keep the overall body temperature cool."

According to the Illinois Department of Regulations, the owner, Harry Carter III, had his license indefinitely suspended in 2008 for numerous violations, including "untrustworthiness, embalming without prior consent and unprofessional conduct."

It is unclear how many bodies are inside the funeral home now. One of them is 97-year-old World War II vet Eddie Moore. His family flew in from Jacksonville, North Carolina, for the funeral.

"I have no idea what's going on. The funeral is tomorrow in the morning at 10:30, and I'm in charge of the funeral," said Leona Howard, deceased's niece.

Police confirmed there are nine bodies inside the home, but it is not clear whether they have been identified. It also unclear whether those bodies will have to be moved from the funeral home.