Funeral home shut down after investigators find maggots, 15 unrefrigerated bodies

Posted at 4:40 PM, Jul 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-15 18:40:50-04

FLINT, MI — A Mid-Michigan funeral home has been shut down after investigators found deplorable conditions, including maggots and 15 unrefrigerated bodies.

Now TV5 has learned the funeral home has had eight complaints reported to state regulators from 2012-2016. Those complaints generated eight inspections.

The Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) announced Wednesday they have suspended the mortuary science license of Swanson Funeral Home in Flint, including the individual license of its manager O’Neil D. Swanson, II.

A formal complaint, an order of summary suspension and an order to cease and desist were issued by LARA.

“Michigan residents trust funeral home directors, owners, and their establishments to follow the law especially when dealing with the death of a loved one,” said CSCL Director Julia Dale. “We will continue to aggressively hold every funeral home in Michigan to the highest standards of public health and safety when providing final arrangements.”

Investigators said state inspectors found deplorable, unsanitary conditions and several violations inside the funeral home. Those violations included:

  • Maggots on the floor of the facility’s garage and garage door.
  • Unrefrigerated human bodies were stored in the un-air-conditioned garage, some for more than 90 days and up to five months.
  • The building smelled of decomposing bodies.
  • Unsanitary preparation room without equipment or supplies necessary for embalming.
  • Blood and fluid stained casket pillows were laying in the hallway.
  • A failure to register as a “producing facility” and submit a Medical Waste Management Plan, under the Medical Waste Regulatory Act.
  • Repeated violations of standards and laws enforced by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration affecting the handling, custody, care, or transportation of a dead human body.
  • A failure to register to sell prepaid contracts or maintain a contract with a registrant under the Prepaid Act

The funeral home could be subject to fines up to $10,000 for each violation, according to LARA.

MIOSHA inspected the facility six times from 2012-2016, and there were two more inspections from other agencies.

Swanson Funeral Home has had other disturbing allegations leveled against it.

In May of 2017, Maurice Dunn claimed he and his family arrived at the Flint funeral home to pay their respects and found a stranger in the casket. TV5 reached out to Swanson Funeral Home about the claims and never heard back. Read more about the claim here.

“It’s unscrupulous business behavior of course and it’s just awful,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the funeral home put a different person in his mother’s casket.

“They dressed another lady in our mother’s coffin and my mother’s clothes with our mother’s wedding ring and her mother’s wig,” Dunn said.

The funeral home was also reportedly under investigation in November of 2016 after four complaints were filed for gross negligence, incompetence, violation of a rule of conduct and an inability to serve the public. Read more about the complaint here.

Some residents are concerned because they have loved ones inside waiting to be laid to rest and they can’t get in touch with the funeral home either.

Members of the public who are in the process of or have used the services of Swanson Funeral Home and have questions or concerns regarding the operation of the home should contact CSCL at 517-241-7000.

Swartz Funeral Home has stepped in to help 12 families planning funerals at Swanson Funeral Home.

Dunn’s brother Joe Leverette said he wants justice for everyone affected.

“I hope everything gets straightened out you know, try to comfort some of the people they’ve hurt and their families,” Leverette said.

The brothers have filed a lawsuit against the funeral home and want compensation.

Dunn said he is glad no one else has to go through what he did.

“Better late than never,” Dunn said.

Kendra West and her family is reliving a nightmare all over again.

“It was hard enough to know that my brother had passed away and we didn’t know for a few days. And then for him to be mistreated and his things to be stolen,” West said.

After the sudden death of her 28-year-old brother Shawn O’Connor , the family turned to Swanson Funeral Home.

“It was more or less cut us a check and leave,” West said.

The family said Swanson lied to them about when they would be picking up O’Connor’s body. They said they were forced to hold a service without his remains.

It took months to get his belongings and in light of the recent allegations they are left to wonder if they are even his.

“We’re not even positive that he made it to the cremation,” West said. “Do we have his remains or were other people’s family members robbed as well?”

Swanson Funeral Home has not issued any statement on the violations or closure.

How to find a reputable funeral home

“We actually had a service here today for a family. They had a service scheduled there yesterday and obviously weren’t able to do it,” said Rick Lamb, owner of Swartz Funeral Home.

Lamb said many have turned to him. His funeral home has been working overtime to serve families stuck in limbo.

“So we’re just trying to, you know, help the people get through this and we’re trying to get through the paperwork for them with the state,” Lamb said.

Lamb was one of several funeral directors who worked to transport more than a dozen bodies from Swanson on Wednesday.

Robert Wiggins said his family used Swanson back in 2015. He said he had serious concerns back then.

“My wife ran outside crying because she said ‘that’s not my mom. That doesn’t look like mom,'” Wiggins said.

Wiggins said his mother, Emma Lewis, was several shades darker in her casket and looked nothing like she did the day of her passing.

“I don’t think her body was refrigerated. I believe that her blood coagulated and it got dark and that’s what caused the darkness in her skin,” Wiggins said.

Lamb said families should seek referrals when searching for a funeral home.

“Talk to neighbors, talk to families. See if somebody else has had a good experience with someone,” Lamb said.

Wiggins said he just hopes other families don’t have to go through the same thing.

“When you lose a loved one, it’s enough just losing them. Then you know, you want them treated with respect up until the day you lay them to rest and that didn’t happen here,” Wiggins said.