COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Two South Carolina funeral home workers have been indicted after authorities say they left a body to rot in an unrefrigerated room surrounded by air-fresheners for nearly three years because the woman’s family owed them money.
Lawrence Robert Meadows and Roderick Mitchell Cummings, both 40, were charged Friday by a state grand jury with desecration of human remains. A conviction on the charge carries a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.
They were supposed to cremate 63-year-old Mary Alice Pitts Moore after her funeral in Greenwood in March 2015, but instead left her remains in a locked room under blankets and “surrounded by fragrant items,” and even moved her body from one funeral home to another 65 miles (105 kilometers) away, according to a lawsuit filed by Moore’s family.
Moore’s remains were so badly decomposed when found in February at First Family Funeral Home in Spartanburg it took two weeks of reviewing medical records to confirm her identity, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said.
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Cummings and Meadows kept the body because Moore’s family didn’t pay their entire bill, according to arrest warrants from the State Law Enforcement Division.
The state Board of Funeral Service revoked the license of First Family Funeral Home earlier this month after complaints from Moore’s family and others.
Meadows lost his funeral director’s license in April 2015 in an unrelated matter after he forged the signature and other information on a life insurance document when the person with control of the policy refused to use it to pay for funeral services, according to state records.
Cummings has never had a funeral license in South Carolina, according to documents.
Meadows’ lawyer, state Sen. Scott Talley, didn’t return a phone message Monday. Court records indicate Cummins is acting as his own lawyer and calls to a listing for his home went unanswered.
Moore’s family held a Celebration of Life service where her body was viewed shortly after her March 26, 2015, death. Her remains were then supposed to be cremated and returned to the family.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reported on Moore as part of a June series detailing poor oversight of funeral homes around the state.
Moore’s husband, Fred Parker Jr., said another funeral home went ahead and cremated his wife’s body. Her ashes sit in an urn in his Greenwood home beside a tiny portrait taken from her driver’s license — it’s the only photo he has.
“Three years,” Parker said to the newspaper in a low growl, slowly drawing out the words. “How would you feel? It gets worse every day just thinking about it.”
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