On Friday, Michigan state investigators received an “anonymous letter” directing them to a Detroit funeral home that closed in April for “deplorable, unsanitary conditions.”
According to the Detroit Free Press, investigators entered the Cantrell Funeral Home with permission from the new owner, who was in the process of converting it to a community center, Detroit Police Lt. Brian Bowser said.
There, they located the bodies of 11 infants and “stillborns” hidden inside a “drop-down ceiling” between the first and second floor of the building.
In April, the funeral home was shut down over unsanitary conditions after inspectors found bodies that had been left to mold and decay.
Owner Raymond Cantrell II admitted he kept bodies when the families couldn’t pay. At the time, he told WJBK:
“Those who have asked me to hold their loved ones will know I was doing them a favor to accommodate them. For those that weren’t, like the many of the cremated they are trying to take from here or that they are taking from here. Those individuals we called we’ve tried to notify and they haven’t been picked up.”
Police have not confirmed that’s why the infants were kept. But Pastor William C. Curtis, who owns three Detroit funeral homes, said that could be the case.
Nine of the bodies were located hidden inside a box, and two were found inside a garbage bag in a small casket, Bowser confirmed at a press conference.
Police have not confirmed the identities of the infants or why they were hidden in the ceiling. The bodies were badly decomposed; some were “mummified,” and others were “embalmed.”
He told the Detroit News:
“A lot of times the family don’t pay and you have to take them to court. There is no recourse, but holding a body isn’t justifiable. It’s not like repossessing a car, you can’t give the body back.”
Cantrell took over the funeral home from his father in 2017. Curtis said they “used to get a lot of business.”
The medical examiner’s office is currently working to identify all the infants and reunite them with their families, it said in a statement.
Cantrell is not facing charges in relation to the discovery at this time.