Sunday, June 21, 2009

Souldn't happen to a dog

This is just awful.

I hope she gets a final resting place.

Body left in casket has cops' interest
By Ariel Barkhurst - Express-News

Investigations continued Saturday into the discovery of a body of a woman — dead for several years— in a rusty casket at the abandoned Forest Park Funeral Home on the East Side.

When Forest Park vacated the location this month, the body of Ada T. Young was left behind because the family had not paid for a funeral, administrator William Hardy said.

San Antonio police are investigating the incident as an alleged abuse of a corpse.

Sgt. Edward Rohmer said the body was transported to the Bexar County medical examiner's office after it was found Friday. The medical examiner's investigation will help determine whether police pursue criminal charges against Hardy or the owner of the funeral home, Clara Bell, Rohmer said.

“It depends on whether it was natural (death) and whether they can positively ID the person,” Rohmer said.

On Friday, Hardy said the funeral home had been in possession of Young's body since 2004, when she died and received a chapel funeral. Her closest surviving family member, a granddaughter, could not pay for the funeral or burial, Hardy said.

“I have always carried that body,” Hardy said. “Every time we went to a new location, I had that body with me. I helped them.”

But when Forest Park recently left its location in the 1900 block of Rigsby Avenue, Hardy said he did not move the body again.

“I have a very ill sister,” he said, “and she's at hospice, and I had a tough week from an illness perspective, and I didn't get around to doing anything about it. But she's been dead since 2004. And her granddaughter has not done anything about it.”

The family could apply for a county burial, according to Joseph Conde, funeral director for M.E. Rodriguez Funeral Home, which handles Bexar County's pauper burials. If the family's income status qualifies, the county will bury the body. And if the family doesn't apply, the funeral home could, Conde said.

“The funeral home should've had the audacity to call Bexar County and say, ‘We have a body, and the family can't pay,'” Conde said.

When asked if he was aware of the county burial option, Hardy said he was not.

The abandonment of Young's body, kept in a storage shed behind the former funeral home, was reported by Tina Leggett and her husband, Reginald McCraney, who live above the business. Leggett said she and McCraney had been in the shed with Hardy and had seen the casket mostly hidden beneath papers and other materials.

But after Forest Park left, Leggett said McCraney got curious about the casket.

“My husband said, ‘Let's go ... pull it out,'” Leggett said. “And I was like, ‘And do what with it?' But he said, ‘Let's just pull it out.' So we did. It (casket) was all rusted, so we could tell something was wrong. Then he opened it, and you could smell that smell.”

Young's body, Leggett said, was dressed in a gold funeral gown with a maroon corsage, and the casket was silver with maroon trim. The body was badly decomposed, she said.

Leaving behind a body could pose legal liabilities, said J.D. Pauerstein, an attorney who represents several funeral homes.

“It is illegal, under several provisions of the civil and criminal statues in Texas,” Pauerstein said. “The penal code has a provision in it that says it's a criminal offense to treat a human corpse in an offensive manner. There's a basis to prosecute someone who abandons a corpse.”