SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Dozens of families across Central Illinois are finding out that the ashes they received from a Carlinville funeral home are not those of their loved ones, but those of someone else entirely.
Jim Allmon, the Sangamon County Coroner, announced on Friday that he was opening an investigation into Heinz Funeral Home. His office had discovered the funeral home sent multiple families the wrong cremated remains, and he asked people to call his office if they were concerned that they had the wrong ashes as well.
Allmon said his phone rang virtually nonstop over the weekend since his announcement. He’s gotten dozens, if not hundreds, of calls from concerned families. From these calls, he found even more people who were in fact given other people’s ashes.
“We’ve confirmed that there’s been multiple cases of individuals receiving cremains when in actuality, their loved one was never even cremated,” Allmon said.
He couldn’t give an exact number, but he said it is in the dozens. And this disturbing trend goes back for years.
“We don’t have a timetable yet,” Allmon said. “All these phone calls that are coming in, we’re trying to establish that as we speak.”
To identify remains, Allmon is working with the local crematory. The funeral home is in charge of delivering the body to the crematory.
“They deliver that decedent to the crematory with, hopefully the proper paperwork,” Allmon said. “The crematory looks at that paperwork, confirms everything’s in order and does the cremation.”
PIN numbers are then assigned to the ashes, and Allmon is using those PIN numbers to help identify whose remains are whose. In all but one of the cases, Allmon found that after the cremation took place, remains were swapped and given to the wrong families.
The outlier saw somebody cremated under the wrong name entirely.
Allmon said other county coroners are getting calls too. The investigation is now multi-jurisdictional, and he and the others met with investigators to decide who will spearhead this.
Allmon said his office will remain involved no matter what.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure we help every single one of these families,” Allmon said. “But it’s going to be a long road. And I don’t know if every family is going to get their loved one back at this point. I just don’t know.”
There were three bodies at the funeral home when Allmon and law enforcement went there to investigate last week. All three were improperly stored and were well into the process of decomposing.
Allmon confirmed that the families of those deceased people had already been given cremated remains, despite the bodies still remaining.
Heinz Funeral Home did not respond to WCIA’s requests for comment, but Allmon said he had a short conversation by text with the owner of the funeral home. He would not say what that conversation entailed.
If you either know or believe you were given the wrong ashes by Heinz Funeral Home, please reach out to Cole Henke at firstname.lastname@example.org.