TOLEDO (WTOL) - An 11 Investigates investigation worked to get an answer as to how the body of a local man was allowed to be dropped off inside in a storage building, behind a Toledo church.
The building in which the body was stored, with no running water and in temperatures about 50 degrees, had conditions that local and state investigators say are not suitable for housing the dead.
A bogus funeral business and a loophole in the state law may be to blame for letting this happen and letting other grieving families down.
“There were newspapers covering the windows and there was an odor of decomposition,” said Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, a Lucas County coroner.
Those are the conditions that sparked a local and state investigation into what prosecutors are calling a bogus funeral home operation.
“This has apparently happened in other parts of Ohio, with the same people,” Scala-Barnett said.
The people to whom she is referring are two local men named in a police report and affidavit that was filed back in December. They are accused of abuse of a corpse.
“There was some concern for where this body was taken, when it was released from the coroner’s office,” Scala-Barnett said.
Instead of a funeral home, the body was delivered to a storage building behind a church on Airport Highway, just a few steps away from a day care and restaurant.
After getting word of the unusual drop-off location, the Lucas County Coroner’s office tipped off police, who then received a search warrant to go inside with investigators.
“We found the body that had been released for us, laying on a conference table. There was no refrigeration and it was about 50 degrees,” Scala-Barnett said. “In my opinion, it is a public heath hazard. This is an infected body, it is not embalmed, and its in an insufficient temperature for storage.”
Scala-Barnett said the situation is a bio-hazard risk that puts the health of those around the body at risk for airborne pathogens.
“This is unacceptable in the public health world. You cant have dead bodies, laying out in places,” she said.
WTOL checked with the Lucas County Coroner’s Office and uncovered that the men accused of getting this body released have received at least two other bodies since Thanksgiving and recently requested another.
Scala-Barnett said because of a state law, she can’t tell them no.
“We can’t refuse to release the body if the family has signed, and it’s the correct paperwork. We are obliged to release it. The problem is, once they leave here, where are they going? We don’t necessarily have control of that.”
The two men somehow have found a way to appear to be a legitimate funeral business on paper, but prosecutors say they have evidence that proves otherwise, including the lack of a state license.
Because they have not been charged, WTOL 11 is not identifying them.
This is a story WTOL was the first to tell you about and have been following since the beginning. Stay with WTOL as this story continues to develop.