SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon opened his investigation into Heinz Funeral Home and Family Care Cremations one month ago.
His office has found more than 60 families that were given the wrong cremated remains by the funeral home. Those families are spread all over the country.
“We’ve talked to families in Oregon, California, Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, just to mention a few states where people have been given what they thought to be their loved ones cremains,” Allmon said.
His office is going to extreme lengths to get people their loved one’s remains back, in some cases even performing exhumations to get remains that were given to the wrong family.
“These families are demanding something be done,” Allmon said. “And all of them that I’ve talked to are just devastated. They can’t believe that this has happened to them.”
Allmon is working with area lawmakers to try and shore up Illinois’ laws. The National Funeral Director’s Association said Illinois’ laws are thorough up until the cremation takes place.
“They cover as far as, you know, commingling of cremated remains. They have good policies and procedures, good statutes in place,” said Mike Nicodemus, Vice President of Cremation Services for the National Funeral Directors Association. “But, of course, you know, they would never know about any of this until this is brought forward.”
The state requires proper identification be included with cremated remains, and there are regulations laid out for how the process takes place. But Allmon said there are very few laws regulating the process of returning the ashes to the family after the cremation.
While Heinz Funeral Home and Family Care Cremations labelled itself as a cremation service, the business did not own its own crematory. Instead, the business took bodies they were entrusted with to a crematory. Allmon said there have been cases where bodies were cremated under the wrong name due to improper paperwork when the body was dropped off. In most of the cases, the switch for the remains came after the cremation took place.
“The disconnect is when the crematory really has no way of knowing that the correct cremains are going to be given to the families that this other funeral home is servicing,” Allmon said.
He’s interested in putting some new penalties on the books as well.
“Ask them about some proposed legislation to help us moving forward. And maybe put something on the books so to speak, that says, look, this is not only unacceptable and unethical and immoral — but it’s illegal,” Allmon said.
The Illinois State Police took over the criminal side of this investigation, and so far, there have been no charges filed against the director of the funeral home. The state did revoke their license.