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Detroit police open criminal investigation into former funeral home where fetus and infant remains found

When state investigators acted on an anonymous tip leading them to a former funeral home in Detroit, they fo...

Posted: Oct 17, 2018 3:41 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2018 3:41 AM

When state investigators acted on an anonymous tip leading them to a former funeral home in Detroit, they found what Police Chief James Craig could only describe as "deeply troubling."

After searching the building, workers from Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) discovered the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant in a drop-down ceiling of the former Cantrell Funeral Home.

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Now, the Detroit Police Department is investigating how these remains could have been left there -- and who might have been responsible.

Chief James Craig announced the decision Monday.

"Detroit Police Department has opened a criminal investigation on allegations of a felony," Craig said a press conference. The investigation into that felony charge -- failure to supervise the final disposition of a dead body within 180 days -- will involve an interview with Raymond Cantrell II, who owned the former funeral home, Craig said.

Cantrell did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment. Craig said his department has not yet spoken with Cantrell, but that they expect to do so "at the appropriate time."

Charges have not yet been filed, but Craig said he has been in touch with both the Michigan Attorney General's office and the Wayne County Prosecutor about what the next steps might be.

Acting on an anonymous letter

An anonymous letter led investigators from LARA to the site of the former funeral home on Friday, where the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were found.

The fetuses were found in a "simulated cardboard box" and the remains of the infant were found in a "very small coffin," Craig said, declining to go into specifics about the condition of the remains found.

It's unclear how long the remains were kept inside the building, but at least one of the remains was marked with a date of October 2017, Craig said.

Friday's shocking discovery marked LARA's third visit to the premises in only a few months.

Cantrell Funeral Home was shut down in April by LARA for multiple violations, including improper storage of embalmed bodies, with two in an advanced stage of decomposition, according to a press release.

In August, an anonymous phone call led LARA investigators back to the building, where one fetus and some cremated remains were found, Craig said.

After the remains of 10 fetuses and one infant were found on Friday, a cadaver-trained police dog searched the building and no additional bodies were located, Detroit Police Lt. Brian Bowser said.

Identifying the remains

The Wayne County Medical Examiner is working to identify the remains and notify any families, but the state of the remains, some of which are in "mummified conditions," is making the process difficult.

"Due to the conditions of the remains, the best path toward positive identification is finding existing records. The fact that these remains reached a funeral home means there should be a record somewhere that can help lead us to identifying information," Dr. Carl Schmidt, Wayne County's chief medical examiner, said in a statement.

Investigators hope to match the remains to any medical records or funeral home paperwork that exists. Most of the remains have identifying labels from hospitals, which will also assist in the identification effort, Schmidt said, noting the process could take weeks or months, depending on what records are available.

The Medical Examiner's office will work with state and local officials in their effort, though Craig says this incident is unlike anything he's ever encountered in his nearly 42-year career.

"I've never heard of anything like this. This is the first time in my career," Craig said. "I can't explain it. It makes no sense."

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